Tokomaru Bay students retracing ancestors' steps in Rarotonga

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Tokomaru Bay School Hatea-a-Rangi are connecting with the place their ancestors voyaged from Rarotonga to Aotearoa.

The students boarded the Marumaru Atua Waka at Avana Lagoon to experience how they travelled.

Kaumātua Wayne Ngata says it’s a return to the pristine waters where their ancestors departed for Aotearoa.

“This pilgrimage isn’t new to us, we traditionally bring our children back here to these significant places so that they grasp what they experience if not now, then in time this they will understand,” said Ngata.

On the double-hulled canoe named Under the Shadow of God, the children discover how their ancestors voyaged.

“It’s great to connect with them to make them, understand the bigger picture of who we are as Polynesians as one people,” says Marumaru Atua Waka Training Captain Sam Timoko.

“Back in the day, we use to travel all the time. Travelling from one place to the next, one island to the other, it was like going from one suburb to the next.”

Principal Karla Kohatu says, “Some have started learning aspects of the star compass. Some have started learning about the traditions of their own ancestral canoes such as Horouta, Takitimu.”

An exchange between Hatea-a-Rangi and schools in Rarotonga was fostered in 1934 following the opening of their meeting house Te Hono ki Rarotonga at Pakirikiri marae.

“An Ariki at the time (from Rarotonga), came to the opening on a waka, so I thought we should return and connect with this double-hulled waka.”

The pilgrimage has coincided with Te Maeva Nui celebrations. This week the best cultural performers of the Cook Islands have taken to the stage.

"The dancers and performers are absolutely stunning," said Kohatu, "because of the spectacular costumes, the dancing and beating drums, we’ve been inspired by the performances."

Kohatu hopes the children will perform at Te Maeva Nui to show their appreciation to the locals for their generous hospitality.