Pacific Artists Inspired by Tupaia Exhibition

Radio New Zealand recently posted an article written by Christine Rovoi about how Pacific Islanders who visited an exhibition about Tahitian navigator Tupaia, said they have been inspired to share his story.

Tupaia and the Endeavour at Auckland Museum tells the story of the navigator’s journey to New Zealand with Captain Cook in 1769. The exhibition followed last year’s Tuia 250 Voyage, a 10-week journey around New Zealand by three seafaring vaka and a replica of Cook’s Endeavour.


The voyage commemorated 250 years since Cook and Tape arrived in 1769. The voyage also recognised the Pacific voyagers who reached Aotearoa New Zealand many years earlier. This week, Tupaia’s exhibition was visited by artists due to perform at the cancelled Pasifika Festival. Hawai’i-based Tahitian musician Kainalu Tolentino had not heard of Tupaia prior to arriving in Auckland.

But Mr Tolentino said after visiting the exhibition, he was proud of Tupaia’s achievements and would seek to learn more when he returned home. “I’m trying to educate myself with the experience here as I’ve heard stories so would like to learn more,” he said. “So far I’ve learned that he was on the same ship as Captain Cook.”

Captain Cook was killed in Hawaii in 1779 and Mr Tolentino said a 27-foot Captain Cook Monument sat at the Waimea Bay off Kaua’i Island. He said many Hawaiians did not think very highly of Cook. “It’s not a really good thing for us as Hawaiians because of all of the plagues and diseases he brought,” he said. “For a lot of Hawaiians, it hurts us. But in order for me to learn more, I have to see both sides of the story. I’m here to persuade myself to change my thinking and learn more.”

Ena Manuireva is a cultural advisor from French Polynesia. He said in order for people like Mr Tolentino to learn about Tupaia, the history books on Cook must be re-written to include the Tahitian navigator who accompanied him.

Mr Manuireva said more emphasis needed to be put on Tupaia’s legacy. Mr Manuireva said more emphasis needed to be put on Tupaia’s legacy. He wanted a round-table discussion of all parties involved to work together to tell and spread Tupaia’s story. “What about the person who was next to Cook? What about the Tahitian guy or the savage? What about him? We need to set the record straight. Cook would’ve died if Tupaia didn’t tell him ‘we need to change course otherwise we are going to go down south Antartica and die over there.”

Ingrid Niuola lives in Noumea and said while her Wallisian heritage had little to do with Tupaia, she was happy to share his story with her people. Ms Niuola had not heard of Tupaia. But she said when she learned he was Tahitian, it warmed her heart.”The relation we have with Tahitians is really close,” she said. “For our community, we are trying to get the exhibition to teach us more about Tahitian people.”



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