Learning Traditional and Treasure Ways in Cook Islands

I found an interesting article in the Cook Islands Online News that was written by Katrina Tanirau about how there is no better place for future generations of Cook Islanders to learn about traditional cultural practices than at Highland Paradise – the 600-year-old village site that was home to the Tinomana tribe.

Nearly 3000 children have had the joy of competing in the Highland Paradise Cultural Competition since its inception nine years ago.

Tutu Pirangi says they were proud to host the ninth annual school cultural competition at Highland Paradise – Maungaroa on Friday after rain postponed the event by a day. “When we initiated this competition, our aim was to create a passion for our culture, a way of engaging our children in cultural practices in the most authentic and traditional way,” Pirangi says. This competition is an integral part of our overall vision to preserve and showcase our culture to ensure it is never forgotten.”

The different categories of the competition are: Tau Umu, Rutu Pau, Rangaranga, Taki Tua, Ko Akari, Ute and Akatangi Ukarere. For some of the students, Pirangi says it’s probably the only opportunity that they will have to prepare an umu on their own. “It’s a fun interactive way for them to learn.”

Originally there were five schools, Arorangi, Rutaki, Papaaroa, Takitumu and Te Uki Ou who were to take part in the competition. Apii Arorangi have attended the cultural experience every year, but sadly due to the passing of a well loved and respected woman Niotangi Heather in Vaka Puaikura, the school did not participate in the event.“Kia akapumaana mai te Atua i to tatou tumatetenga,” says Pirangi.

Grandfather and mataiapo Danny Mataroa says when children participate in the competition, they get to know each other and learn about traditional ways, while treasuring the experience. Hopefully later when they go overseas they will return because of their love for Cook Islands culture, Mataroa says. “Sometimes we get so churchy, that we become so strict on our kids and limit them from mixing with other kids that they just want to leave the island when they’re older,” he says.

Principal of Papaaroa School June Hosea says it’s events like this that encourage the students to learn and make use of traditional skills. “If it wasn’t for this event, I don’t think we would be motivated to do this,” Hosea says. “The kids love it, learning how to weave and husk a coconut – some have never husked one.

“Because of Covid it’s helped us realise we need to get back to our knowledge and it is events like this that encourage our children to do just that. I’m very happy the kids are participating in this.”

Tutu Pirangi expressed gratitude to their sponsors for their continued support – Primefoods, Rangi and Mataamua Taru, Cook Islands Tourism, Ministry of Cultural Development, Solomon and Tuakana Pirangi, Eddie and E Matike Dance team, Danny Mataroa and their judges. Most of all they are grateful for the long partnership with the schools, because without them there would be no competition. “We thank them for their foresight and commitment and for including the competition in their programmes each year,” Pirangi says.

“We understand this can be a challenge for the schools and we therefore seek that Cook Islands culture be incorporated into our Cook Islands schools’ curriculum – so that Cook Islands culture isn’t just extracurricular but a core part of learning.”

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