Tokoroa’s Cook Islands Women Celebrated in New Book

A couple of weeks ago Radio New Zealand posted an article about the launching of a new book that detailed the lives of 12 Cook Islands women in Tokoroa, New Zealand, which coincided with Cook Islands Language Week.

Te Kinakina: E Ngara I te Ngari, Remember who you are and where you come from is the result of a series of creative writing workshops led by poet Vaughan Rapatahana and facilitated by South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services (SWPICS) with support from the Ministry of Education and Read NZ Te Pou Muramura.

The book opens with introductions by Papa Timote Turu and editor Vaughan Rapatahana, and the stories are illustrated with colour photographs.

These elements combine to create an illuminating account of Pasifika life in Aotearoa, and confirm the authors’ communal commitment to kōpu tangata, family, home, church and each other.

Tokoroa is known as the the ‘sixteenth star’ because there is 15 islands in the Cook Islands, and the 15 stars on their flag represents the 15 islands and Tokoroa is the ‘sixteenth star’ because it’s the biggest Cook Islands community outside of the Cook Islands,” Rapatahana said.


Te Kinakina: E Ngara I te Ngari, a book celebrating the lives Cook Islands women in Tokoroa. Photo from Waikato Pacific Island Community Services

“They came here [Tokoroa] to work at initially the New Zealand Forest Products mill in Kinleith, in the forest industry, although some went to Mangakino to work on the dam project, this is way back in the 1940s and throughout the 1950s. And because of the huge importance placed on whanaungatanga and whanau, many of the Cook Islands families who came here brought over their relatives and other families who actually stayed with them for a long period of time until the new arrivals got established, who were basically at Kinleith as well,” he said.

He said it is an important book for two reasons. “For the first time it sets out in detail the experiences of Cook Islands women living in Tokoroa, and their combined stories express many emotions, portray many events, and display several consistent themes.”

SWPICS CEO Akarere Henry, who is also one of the contributing authors, said the writing project and resulting anthology is very special to the community. “We see it as a realisation of some of the aspirations and dreams of our community. We’re so grateful and proud to be able to share our stories in this way,” she said.

Te Kinakina: E Ngara I te Ngari, Remember who you are and where you come from will be available, in limited edition, from all good bookshops and libraries.

Cook Islands language week ended August 7.

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