Cook Islands celebrating Te Maeva Nui Festival in Tāmaki

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Preparations for Te Maeva Nui Aotearoa Cultural Festival is underway at the Barfoot and Thompson Stadium in Kohimārama, which is hosting more than 900 Cook Islanders this afternoon and40 market stalls.

What initially began as a festival to celebrate the Cook Islands' independence from New Zealand in 1965, has evolved into a fierce competition, with prize money up for grabs.

Francis Topa-Fariu, a board member of Te Maeva Nui, says the festival was founded to pass down Cook Island culture and language to parents and young Cook Islanders born in New Zealand.

No'o Pare, chairman of Te Maeva Nui, anticipates that the festival will bring Cook Islanders living overseas together in Aotearoa to celebrate their culture.

Our reporter, Mare Haimona-Riki, was at the festival today and talked to the festival director of Te Maeva Nui, Duane Wichman-Evans, about the Tū Tangata Awards made last night at the opening ceremony and the festival itself.

Duane Wichman-Evans says it was about, “acknowledging the achievements of our Cook Island people internationally in their chosen professions with sports, youth, education, creative and business.”

According to Wichman-Evans, the festival has been going for 55 years, and because there are 60,000 Cook Islanders in Aotearoa but only 10,000 in the Cook Islands, it was agreed to organise one here as well.

“We have nine teams with 120 performers in each team, so over 1000 performers, it’s our own Matatini”, he says.

“It goes from tonight and we have a full day tomorrow with our markets, so we are being fed in so many different ways.”