Cook Islands celebrate another year of self-governance

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Cook Islands culture and all its glory were on show last week as the country celebrated the 56th anniversary of being a self-governing Pacific nation.

Cook Islanders were out in full force representing their culture and heritage on the streets, from drummers to ura performance groups and more.

Ura exponent Enua Peyroux says, "Every year it's getting bigger and bigger. And every year everybody's looking forward to these big events."

"We're celebrating the 56 years of self-government, and also this is the time where everybody gets together to share each other's ideas, share our food, share our love," one Cook Islander said.

Although the culture stands in good stead, some cultural experts say they could learn a thing or two from kapa haka after watching their guests Ngā Tūmanako in action.

Lady Tuaine Marsters

Lady Tuaine Marsters, the wife of the Queen's Representative, Sir Tom Marsters, reflects on the evolution of ura, much of which has changed over time.

"They have improved on it. Before, we had stiff dancing, but now we have this mellow beautiful [style] and you watch your hands and follow the hands and the eyes, and smile at the same time.

"You have to be fully clothed, fully dressed. But hey, that's out the window now, the young girls want to show their beautiful bodies. And they're beautiful bodies."

Lady Tuaine reflected on Ngā Tūmanako's performance at this year's opening parade and admired the power Māori performing arts has.

Ngā Tūmanako performs haka 

"You're too stiff and too strong for us. We Cook Islanders don't have that power that you show, that 'I'm tangata whenua' and how you do it and stand."

Despite Covid-19 still at the forefront of thinking for the people in the Cook Islands and performers from outer islands not attending, the essence and reverence of the groups' performances are still very much present. 

This tiny island nation is committed to sustaining the future of its culture, for generations to come.