Wednesday, December 30
Christmas is over, the New Year is fast approaching. The weather has been pretty good. Fine and sunny enabling lots of people to get down to the beaches and enjoy themselves.
It’s a bit cloudier now but there’s been no rain – good if you’re a holidaymaker, not so good if you’ve got a water tank that needs filling.
This video was taken just before Christmas when the Muri Eco Warriors had their first project.
The Muri Eco Warriors are kids, from toddlers to teens, who live in the Muri area and want to learn about and protect the beaches and surroundings.
Their first project took place at the beach area in front of the Ngatangiia sports field.
Cyclones and storms have washed basalt rock from the retaining wall onto the sand and into the lagoon.
The kids, with a little help from some adults, shifted rocks – small, middle-sized and large – and also learnt about levers, fulcrums and cooperation.
The Warriors programme will run once a month with a different mission each time.
The plan next time is to head along the Avana valley and check out freshwater ecology.
Thursday, December 24
It’s Christmas Eve as I write this, the sun is shining and it’s hot, hot, hot!
The political situation is also pretty warm with the PM sacking the DPM, a gaggle of ministers resigning in protest, the Democratic Party expelling the PM and asking him to resign, the PM refusing… no doubt the usual shady deals are being made behind the scenes and one or more coalitions are likely in the new year.
Meanwhile life goes on. Usually at this time of year the streets are crowded with expat Cook Islanders home for the holidays but there seem to be fewer this year.
I don’t know whether that’s because not so may have been able to afford to fly to Raro or because there’s less money to spend when they get here.
Some things don’t change much though. The end-of-season soccer cup final took place last weekend and the big two – Nikao and Tupapa – faced each other again. Nikao had hoped to do the round/cup double but Tupapa won with a goal in the last few minutes.
The women’s cup final was between Arorangi and Titikaveka. It was nil all at full time but Arorangi won on penalties.
A merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.
Thursday, December 17
Rarotonga’s Hospital Comforts group has been helping the sick and suffering, both in-patient and out-patient, for over forty years.
As well as making hospital visits, the comforters raise money for things like crutches, wheelchairs and even specially adapted vans with lifts so that willing helpers can take the wheelchair-bound out and about.
They’re a lovely group, mainly women, always ready to lend a helping hand with a personal touch.
Carol singing at the hospital is a regular occasion each festive season. Santa and the gang load their sacks with presents, cakes and biscuits and travel round the wards delivering Christmas cheer.
As you can see from the video, Santa had plenty of help from the elf, the cute little fairies and the Girls Brigade singers doing their bit to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Monday, December 14
It’s been dry and dusty in Rarotonga for the past couple of months but the drought finally broke last week and we had a couple of heavy downpours.
The grass and trees are looking green again and water tanks are filling up. The government’s introduced a subsidy scheme to encourage home owners to buy water tanks and according to Cook Islands News it’s proving very popular. Te Aponga Uira (the local power company) will now install meters that run backwards so if people have windmills excess power can feed back into the system and cut down on electricity bills. The messages about conservation and global warming are getting through.
This video has nothing to do with power bills but there’s certainly a lot of energy on display.
It takes a lot of time and effort to get ready for the Maeva Nui cultural dance competition.
Piritau Nga was choreographer and team leader and the dancers and drummers put in long hours of practice to perfect their moves.
This is one of the early sessions for the drum dance, the ura pau.
Sunday, December 6
Back in August I uploaded a video about Nikao villagers preparing for the annual cultural dance competition, Te Maeva Nui. If you missed it you can check it out here.
There are several parts to the contest, and Oire Nikao won the costume, ura pa’u (drum dance) and pe’e (legend) sections, came second in the choir and kapa rima (action song) sections and shared third place in the ute (celebratory chant) section with Nukuroa.
These great results made them the overall trophy winners. If you want to read more about Te Maeva Nui go to the Cook Islands News website. They now have archived material on the site including the starting parade and the results (plus plenty in between but you’ll have to fossick around for yourselves to find that).
Now that the mini games and my holiday are both over I’ve got time to go back over some of the video I took of the preparations for Maeva Nui. This one shows more of the work involved in making the costumes. Au (beach hibiscus) branches were anchored in the lagoon for two to three weeks. This softens the fibres so that the inner bark peels away from the wood easily. The fibres are hung up to dry, then teased apart before being plaited or made into skirts.
Not only the dancers are involved in the work. From young boys and girls right up to grandmothers and grandfathers, everyone lends a hand and enjoys doing so.
Later the costumes are bleached or dyed and the decorations are made.
It’s a long slow job but the results were quite spectacular as you will see on later videos.
I’ve got footage of early rehearsals and the dress rehearsal but unfortunately not of the event itself. The ministry (of culture) won’t allow any video cameras in the auditorium where the competition takes place.
Monday, November 30
I’m back on the rock after a six-week holiday to Singapore, England, Canada and Hawaii, so I missed all the action in October and November.
Gospel Day (26 October) this year was celebrated at Takamoa Theological College. The 170-year-old mission building there has had a million dollar facelift and it was opened on Monday. Usually Gospel Day is celebrated by the six ekalesia on Rarotonga performing biblical dramas, nuku. This time the ekalesia along with Takamoa students put on various items including specially composed songs. (For more details check the Cook Islands News website here.)
The Catholic church’s blessing of graves, Turama, took place on Saturday 31 October instead of All Souls Day (1 November) so that it didn’t interfere with Sunday church services.
On the sporting front two of the year’s big events happen in November.
Early in the month the Sevens in Heaven rugby sevens tournament was another great success with underdogs Waimiha Rebels defeating defending champions Tauae Bulls in an exciting final. Sevens legend Eric Rush said he was impressed with the level of games during the tournament and he looks forward to seeing some of the outstanding young Cook Islands players on the international scene.
The annual Vaka Eiva (outrigger canoe) festival has just finished and by all accounts was bigger and better than ever with up to 1500 paddlers and supporters on the island. This year there were more young teams competing, a sign that oe vaka is a growing sport.
All that happened while I was overseas so there’s no video coverage this year (newcomers to this blog can check last year’s events to see what it’s all about). If I come across any videos online I’ll add links to them later.
This week’s video is a longer look at one of the dance groups that performed in the closing ceremony of the Pacific Mini Games. I think the dancers were from Atiu – if I find out differently I’ll make the appropriate changes.
Now I’ve got to look at footage from overseas. Taking a holiday can be hard work!
Saturday, November 14
A quick note from Vancouver (very nice city but boy is it cold!).
The kids from Titikaveka College supported three teams during the World Youth Netball Championships held in Rarotonga in July 2009; Singapore, New Zealand ad the Cook Islands.
The previous video showed the Singapore supporters practicing an item. This video shows the actual performance for the Singaporeans at the Edgewater Resort where all the netball tams were staying. The weather was a bit damp but as you can see everyone enjoyed it and the Singapore netballers came up with a dance of their own in response.
All good fun.
On the technical side (sort of) I usually host these videos on YouTube but for some reason I can't upload this one so I'm uploading it directly to Blogger. On YouTube I've got a bit of control over the quality but it's not possible on Blogger as far as I know so this one might be a bit rougher than usual. If so I apologise.
And now I've got to pack ready for headig to Hawaii where the temperature is currently 26C as opposed to the 2C in Vancouve right now.
Hawaii. I've now managed to upload the video to YouTube and I've changed the video embedded in this blog.
Tuesday, November 3
This video is of the students at Titikaveka College making a lion and practicing a lion dance in honour of the Singapore under 21 netballers who were in Rarotonga in July for the World Youth NetballChampionships.
Titikaveka 'adopted' Singapore and went along to all their matches to cheer them on.
They had a lot of fun making the lion and the next video will be of them doing the dance for the Singapore girls.
Sunday, October 25
I'm still on the road – in London at the moment – but managed to finish another video from the games.
The Cook Islands had a wonderful golf tournament. We scooped all four gold medals, the men's and women's team events and the men's and women's individual titles. The two youngest team members won the individual golds, Elmay Viking the women's and Kirk Tuaiti the men's.
The golf course is just over the road from Nikao beach and has an impressive mountain background. It's also got some unusual hazards - a number of radio masts with wire stays and concrete bases.
Business house golf and fund-raising golf competitions are popular on Rarotonga and we often find stray golf balls among the trees lining the beach.
Not everyone is up to the golf team's standards!
Saturday, October 17
I'm on the road at the moment, in Singapore as a matter of fact. It's great, food's fantastic and there's plenty to do but it doesn't leave a lot of time for editing video. Not to worry. At the mini games we had a group of youngsters from Manchester (England) who were filming Pacific athletes, particularly those who might make it to the London Olympics in 2012.The kids - eight of them aged 15 or 16 - are all part of a programme called Supporter to Reporter, S2R for short, which encourages young sports fans to become reporters and put their stories, videos and radio interviews on the web.This group really impressed everyone with their enthusiasm and the amount of work they did.I'm embedding a video they took about various spots on Rarotonga but most of their videos are sports related.You can check out more of them on the mini games website (http://www.2009pacificgames.co.ck/) or at the S2R website (http://www.radiowaves.co.uk/n/s2r/c/Pacific+Games)
Sunday, October 11
Here is another short video of action from the mini games.This one is from the boxing tournament.
I’m not sure that boxing should qualify as a sport, particularly professional boxing; it’s more like legalised thuggery. But it’s popular as you can hear from the yells of the spectators, many of them women.
Anyway, regardless of my opinions, the young boxers themselves were very proud and patriotic and they certainly deserve congratulations for doing their best.
I suppose boxing is at the opposite end of the sporting spectacular scale to synchronised swimming but at least nobody gets injured in the pool. Jaws! Where are you when you’re needed?
Plenty more videos to come – time is the problem. I’ll be off the island for a few weeks but I’m taking a computer and a hard drive chock full of video footage so I can get editing if I get restless or bored (in Singapore? England? No chance!)
Sunday, October 4
Whew! The mini games are over and now all the volunteers (there were more than a thousand, maybe even two thousand) can get a bit of sleep and in my case clean up the houes and garden. Not much has been touched over the past few weeks.
The weather was mainly fine. We had one day of thunder and lightning which meant sports like bowls and golf had to do a bit of rescheduling but it didn't really have much of an effect (apart from filling my water tank which is always a good thing).
We (in the Cook Islands) missed the effects of the tsunami that hit American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga. It was a horrible shock for the athletes from those countries. Many of them had friends or relatives who were affected, maybe even killed, by the disaster.
Flags here flew at half mast and it cast a sombre shadow over the rest of the athletes.
The games have now come to an end and we can all take a deep breath. The head of the Pacific Games Council was in Rarotonga for part of the event and he made no friends when he criticised the organising committee and praised CISNOC (Cook Islands Sports and National Olympics Committee) and their president (who managed to hijack a medal ceremony and annoyed a major sponsor so much that he has threatened topull out of sports sponsorship totally in future). CISNOC were the group charged with running the games but honestly, the only thing they can organise is free trips overseas for themselves.
They spent thousands on poncy uniforms for themselves but couldn't find any spare cash to buy superb photographs - permanent records - from photojournalists who were attending the games.
So the politics of the games were as pathetic as such things always are but the athletes were wonderful. We've been really lucky to be able to see these people in action and some of our own people have risen to the occasion.
We won gold medals in golf, sailing, tennis, touch rugby. Fifteen golds altogether as well as many silver and bronze medals.
It was a great two weeks. Here's a short video of some of the closing highlights.
I've got more footage of the sports so I hope I'll have time to get that up online soon.
Sunday, September 27
I reckon athletics is the prime sporting code at events like these.
There have been some really great moments - unfortunately I've not been around for all of them but here's a selection.
The first week of the Pacific Mini Games is over and I've not had time to put up any video of it!
There's plenty of action on the various fields of play and it's been hectic trying to get information onto the website. Thank goodness for Cook Islands News who have allowed us to use many of their stories and stunnign photographs.
Actually the web side of things was supposed to be organised months ago, especially getting results online quickly, but it hasn't always happened the way it was supposed to! Fortunately we've had an expert here retraining people on the fly - the main problem seems to be finding people to retrain!
I got involved so I'd be able to get videos of some of the action but getting out into the field hasn't been easy. And editing and putting it online is even harder.
Never mind. I'm not really complaining. It's great being able to get close to the action so here is a video of the opening ceremony (it's been on the website since Tuesdsay!)
I'll follow it immediately with a video of some of the athletics so keep watching.
Sunday, September 20
The waiting’s nearly over.
The athletes are just about all here, the games’ villages are filling up, flags flying as each country arrives.
The venues are sparkling.
The vitally important caterers, cooks and cleaners are operational.
Even the sun is shining after a couple of wet, cloudy, cold weeks.
Tomorrow, (Monday Cook Islands time) the opening ceremony gets underway at 2pm. It’s supposed to be relatively short so that the athletes don’t have to hang around for hours in the hot sun, but I’ve got a feeling that the part of the programme that says each country will ‘keep moving slowly and never stop’ is going to be ignored. A lot of these guys are natural showmen. Why move slowly when you can dance, chant or do the island version of a haka?
Oire Nikao, the overall winners of the Maeva Nui cultural dance competition, play a part in the festivities. Once the games are over I’m looking forward to getting some of the footage I took of their rehearsals on the web.
There was a rehearsal on Saturday, a bit of a walk through of the various parts of the programme (excluding the speeches thank goodness – there’ll be enough of them on Monday). It gave the choir a chance to sing the mini games theme song ‘Share the moments’. They’ve been practicing of course but it’s different in the open air at the stadium than it has been inside the auditorium.
This video is a brief look at the practice with the theme song as a soundtrack.
Don’t forget to keep checking the games website for stories, photographs and videos of what’s going on. It will be updated daily – hourly in the case of some sports and results. And we’ll be using reports from the Supporter to Reporter group of young journalists from the UK so there should be plenty to keep Cookies and fans of the Cooks occupied.
Tuesday, September 15
Wow! Talk about busy – both me and the country.
At the moment Rarotonga is in the midst of Te Maeva Nui as well as preparing for the mini games.
The outer islands teams all arrived in the end. The government chartered a vessel from Tahiti to visit northern group islands and pick up teams.
But there was still controversy because the first two islands loaded too many people which meant Pukapuka was left with only thirty or so places instead of the fifty promised. Rather than leave behind team members who had all been practising hard for months, they decided not to come at all. This naturally caused a fuss back in Rarotonga and in the end the government stepped in again and chartered some flights to get them here.
How they’re all going to get back home goodness knows!
So Te Maeva Nui is underway and is the usual popular and spectacular affair. I haven’t been able to go – too busy with mini games preparations. Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, people aren’t allowed to take videos which I find annoying. I’ve got some footage of Nikao practicing their drum dance but I’m not putting it on the web until Te Maeva Nui is over because the team don’t want to give any secrets away. I’ll tell you what, though. The costumes are fantastic.
But back to the mini games.
The weather has improved so let’s hope it stays warm and dry for the next few weeks. Last week the national stadium was renamed the BCI stadium at a fun event with Team Cook Islands marching in, races between mascots, kids and athletes to test the new track and a mass fitness session – the zumbathon – to get everyone warmed up.
The stadium is looking good and everyone had a great time as the video show.
Don’t forget to check out the mini games website to see what’s going on.
Monday, September 7
The World Youth Netball Champs may be over but here on Rarotonga we’re counting down to the Pacific mini games.
For those who don’t live in the Pacific, the mini games take place every four years.
In between times we have the Pacific games which I suppose must be considered the major version with a programme of 22 or more sporting codes spread over ten days or so. The mini games are supposed to be for smaller countries to host without crippling themselves financially. We’re hosting fifteen codes, probably a few too many, and there’s been plenty of controversy about ballooning costs but we’re at the pointed end now and it all gets under way in a fortnight.
We have a mascot – Kuki the Kukupa – and he’s definitely the fun face of the games. He’s been pretty busy recently visiting sponsors and schools; he’s likely to be even busier as opening day gets closer.
The weather at the moment is atrocious – cold, wet and windy – so let’s hope all the bad stuff is out of the way by the time the games start. It’s nice watching sports performed by experts when the sun is shining, not so nice when the rain pours down.
The video shows some of Kuki’s activities.
We’re hoping for a few gold medals. Netball and touch rugby look promising and we should get medals in weightlifting and va’a (outrigger canoeing) although Tahiti are the gun paddlers in the region so maybe not gold. The real excitement comes when our athletes perform above expectations. Can’t wait!
For more about the games check out our website (www.2009pacificgames.co.ck)
Tuesday, September 1
Well, this will be the last of the netball videos (although I still have some footage of the kids in action around the World Youth Netball Championships.
This is a composite of the last four matches. They took place on finals day and saw the allocation of the top eight places for junior netballers in the world. Our girls were fighting for fifth /sixth sport with Malawi. An online newspaper report from Malawi said they couldn't see the Cooks beating Malawi and they were right. The final score was Malawi 61 CI 48. This takes nothing away from the Cook Islanders who had some really good games and a few that weren't so good. But the Malawi team were just superb. They were deserved winners and they celebrated with such gusto at the end of the game that everyone amongst the spectators were cheering along with them as they danced and sang around the court. The biggest cheer probably occurred when the Cookies came out to join in their celebrations.
In the closest match South Africa 43 beat Northern Ireland 41 for the seventh and eighth spots.
The bronze medal game between Jamaica and England was a pretty brutal affair - well let's be fair about this - it wasn't an all out rough game but there were a few nudges and tumbles including one that resembled the notorious spear tackle in rugby league (sorry, I didn't catch that one on video). Jamaica were ahead for just about the whole game and eventually won 48-42.
The grand final was a bit of a disappointment. The Aussies looked unbeatable throughout the tournament and in this game the kiwis just didn't fire. The final score was 64-46 and the under 21 Australian side were deserved winners.
It was a fantastic occasion, everyone loved having all the overseas netballers here and now we are looking forward to the Pacific Mini Games starting on 21 September.
In the meantime, if you're interested in sport or how the Cooks will handle all the hoohah surrounding the games, check out the games website at www.2009pacificgames.co.ck.
Tuesday, August 25
The excitement's over, the netballers have all flown home but Rarotonga has plenty of happy memories to look back on.
Now it's on to the next one, the Pacific Mini Games starting on 21 September.
Sunday, August 23
In the previous post I put a list of the final positions in the World Youth Netball Championships. This video is short clips of the ninth to twentieth teams.
The last day of the competition, Thursday 20 August, had four finals for the top eight places so I'm planning to do a separate video for that. It was quite a day of sport and entertainment. I think the highlight for me was the team from Malawi. They played the Cook Islands for 5th and 6th place and came away the winners in fine style. You might think that the spectators would have been disappointed but those girls were just so much fun to watch as they celebrated the win that everyone loved them. Even the Cooks team joined in the dancing. Wonderful stuff.
However, before then I've got the final march past and medal presentation to put online.
All good fun!
Friday, August 21
The world youth netball championships are over after ten days of top class netball by young athletes from twenty countries.
The final positions are:
2 New Zealand
6 Cook Islands
7 South Africa
8 Northern Ireland
10 Trinidad and Tobago
I’ve got a heap of video and now I should have a bit of time to do some editing and get it online … before the pacific Mini Games begin on 21 September.Before then we’ve got the Maeva Nui cultural dance festival, although the culture department don’t allow people to video that. They keep talking about ‘intellectual property rights’ though it seems to me that they’re a bit lacking in the ‘intellectual’ stakes themselves. Most people would consider it to be free advertising!
Unfortunately the government is having a problem organising transport to Rarotonga from the northern group islands so it remains to be seen if they all get here in time. It would be a shame if some of the teams can’t make it because the outer islands dancers always add a new dimension to the competition.
This video is of the Cook Islanders’ first game, against Wales, which we won.
Friday, August 14
Things are certainly busy here at the moment.
The World Youth Netball Championships are being hosted by the Cook Islands this year.
Twenty teams of under-21 netballers from around the world are in Rarotonga for the ten-day tournament which started last Monday (10 August).
The weather was lovely for the first few days but it’s turned cold and windy now (that’s by Rarotonga standards when anything under 20C feels a bit chilly).
The Cook Islands team is comprised mainly of New Zealand and Australia based players but they are still obviously the local favourites and they have done well so far winning all three of their matches. Today they face England who are the top seeds in our group. We should finish second in the group and go on to fight it out for the top eight places.
All the other teams have local supporters thanks to an adopt-a-county scheme for the schools on Rarotonga. Each school has one or more teams to support (depending on the size of the school) and the kids go along to their matches with flags, banners, pom poms and loud voices. All good fun.
More details and photos of the tournament are on the Pacific Mini Games 2009 website – yes the games will be the next international sporting event coming up in September. Check it out here at http://www.2009pacificgames.co.ck/
(This video of the opening ceremony and another of the first game are already on the site.)
Sunday, August 9
Constitution Day in the Cook Islands is 4 August. It celebrates internal self government, a scheme in which we have our own political system (based on the Westminster model) but New Zealand looks after things like defence and Cook Islanders are NZ citizens and have NZ passports.
Most years we have a cultural dance competition, Te Maeva Nui, during the week or so before Constitution Day but this year it’s been delayed until September because the Cooks are hosting two big international sporting events, the World Youth Netball Championships from 10 – 20 August and the Pacific Mini Games from 21 September – 2 October (more about those later).
The theme for this year’s competition is ‘Welcomes and farewells’ to take into account all the people who will be here for the events.
Various village teams have been getting ready for Te Maeva Nui for some time. The people of Nikao village have been busy practicing the dances and preparing their costumes. This video is about getting the materials for the so-called grass skirts.
They aren’t made from grass at all but from the inner bark of the beach hibiscus (or au) tree.
Last month the boys cut hibiscus branches and saplings – long straight ones are best. Au is very fast-growing – grows like a weed in fact.
The women, young and old, strip off the outer bark. The usual Rarotonga method is for thinner branches then to be bundled and put into the lagoon, weighed down with rocks. With thick branches the inner bark is also removed, tied up in bundles and put into the lagoon.
Now, some of the outer islands in the Southern Group have lagoons that are shallow and not suitable for the bundles-of-sticks method so they strip the bark from everything, thick or thin. Either way, things are left in the lagoon for two to three weeks to soften the fibres ready for the next stage in the costume making process.
As you can see, lots of people are involved and everyone has a lot of fun.
Wednesday, August 5
Rarotonga dance group Te Hiva Nui has been performing at the Billingham Folk Festival in England and this video was posted on YouTube by Emmerrr who says they were excellent.
And a story appeared in a local newspaper the Evening Gazette, about their visit to the home of James Cook after whom our country was named. Check it out here:http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/2009/08/05/homage-paid-to-james-cook-at-billingham-festival-84229-24322430/
Saturday, August 1
It’s been eight months in the building and there have been delays and hold ups, mainly caused by shipping problems, but on Friday 31 July 2009 the Chinese builders handed over the multi sports centre to the Cook Islands, as promised.
The building will be known as the Telecom Sports Arena, at least for the next three years, as part of the sponsorship deal for the World Youth Netball Champs and the Pacific Mini Games.
It was a fairly standard handover ceremony in terms of speeches and invited guests (including the Queen’s Representative Sir Frederick Goodwin and the deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate) but it was good to see that the Chinese workmen were part of the proceedings.
A prayer from the local pastor, Rev Tereora Tereora of Nikao Ekalesia, was followed by the signing of the handover documents by Cook Islands Investment Corporation chairman Tapi Taio, CIIC CEO John Tini, CCECC general deputy manager Zhongning Zhao and another CCECC representative, Mr Liu I think.
Most of the speeches were same old same old; too long and rambling. But local MP and minister of sports Ngamau Munukoa (universally known as Aunty Mau which is much easier to say) gave an emotional address thanking the workers who have become part of the Nikao community.
After the ‘ribbon’ cutting (actually made from maire) everyone went into the arena where Oire Nikao cultural troupe danced and chanted. Ushers demonstrated the retractable seating which really is very quick to deploy. Then it was time for the food without which no Cook Islands function is complete.
The new arena will certainly look good and do its job for the netball champs and during the mini games – it’s the venue for squash, weightlifting and netball again. What happens after that when it comes to maintenance is anyone’s guess!
Monday, July 27
Well, Te Hiva Nui have now flown off to Europe for their performances at various folk dance festivals over the next month or so.
They put on a really spectacular last fundraising performance at their home base - Staircase Restaurant in Rarotonga. The place was packed and included a couple of government ministers and their wives as well as other locals and tourists. I’ll get some video of that online later but in the meantime here’s another item from their recent show at Punanga Nui Market.
This one is an action son – kapa rima.
‘Cook Islands Culture’ has this to say.
Kapa rima (action song)
A story-telling dance, it emphasises the movements of arms and hands rather than those of the lower body. Dancers sing songs accompanied by a band of musicians, usually with ukuleles, guitars and light drumming. This type of dancing, which may be performed by a solo dancer or a troupe, is primarily for an audience. Dance actions in a troupe are usually uniform.
Saturday, July 25
Cook Islands drumming and dancing is famous throughout the Pacific, justifiably so.
Drumming is an important part of the dance, particularly for setting the tempo. ‘Ura pa’u is pronounced (roughly!) oora pow.
The book ‘Cook Islands Culture’ describes it:
“ ‘Ura pa’u (drum dance)
Usually with a faster tempo than kapa rima (action songs), with emphasis on lower body movement. Music is provided by a full ensemble of drums. Drum dances actions by a group are uniform and performance is intended for an audience.”
This is one of the styles people associate most closely with Polynesian dancing. As you can see in the video, it is fast and furious, non-stop action all the way. The boys move their legs in a way that must be great for toning inner thigh muscles (fitness fans take note) and the girls swing their hips as though they’ve got elastic spine and hip joints.
Takes a lot of practice but the end result is awesome!
Monday, July 20
When many people think of Cook Islands dancing it’s the drum dance (‘ura pa’u) or action song (kapa rima) that spring to mind.
The ute (pronounced ‘ootay’ not ‘yoot’ which is short for ‘utility vehicle’ – the Australian term for a pickup truck) is somewhat different. In fact it’s not a dance; it’s a joyous chant or celebratory song with drum and string band backing. Everybody joins in the singing and while individuals may dance for a while it is informal.
The book ‘Cook Islands Culture’ describes it as follows:
“Ute (celebratory song)
Although school children sing ute in Schools Culture Festival competitions, the one style of singing is still largely the prerogative of older people. The traditional ute was a joyful love chant-song or 'imene akaepaepa (song of praise) performed by a group of men and women in a celebratory mood. Nowadays, ute are composed about a wider range of topics. Ute today is different from that of 30 to 40 years ago. According to older Rarotongan exponents of ute, the modern ute incorporates more of the elements commonly associated with 'imene tuki, such as tuki (grunts) and perepere (singing descant), than was considered acceptable years ago. This they blame on the loss of contact with the art for a period of over 20 years when a church ban was in place. Consequently, the new generation of composers that followed, did not learn the techniques nor recognise the peculiarities, which made traditional ute different from 'imene tuki. Variations exist between the islands, however, the purpose of ute is the same on all islands - it is a celebratory song to be sung in a party atmosphere. It would be unseemly to perform ute in churches or at funerals. Ute today is performed mainly on stage during the Constitution Celebrations or at community functions.”
This ute is a new one composed specially for Te Hiva Nui’s overseas tour.
Thursday, July 16
One of Rarotonga’s excellent dance groups, Te Hiva Nui, is heading for Europe soon to take part in several folk dance festivals.
Leaving on 25 July, they head first for the northeast of England where the Billingham International Folklore Festival is an annual event. From 1 – 8 August they’ll be performing alongside dancers from the Caribbean, Egypt, Mongolia, Peru, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Thailand.
While they’re in that part of the world they’re planning a side trip to the North Yorkshire scout jamboree in Harrogate. The Cook Islands are named after Yorkshireman Captain James Cook (although not by him – he called them the Hervey Islands). Mind you, he’s associated with Whitby which is on the coast rather than the inland Harrogate and Billingham is much closer to Whitby but the scouts are at Harrogate so that’s where they’re going (on 29 July I think).
After England the group travel to France for the Confolens Festival from 12 – 17 August. Confolens is in the Poitou-Charente region and the festival of music and folk dance features 15 to 20 folklore groups and 600 musicians each year, representing 15 countries.
There will be parades, shows and concerts as well as street events. Around 200 to 300,000 spectators travel there each summer, and it sounds like a lot of fun. Check out more details here.
They’ll also be appearing at a festival in Switzerland before returning to Rarotonga at the end of August.
The travelling party of 21 includes seven male and seven female dancers as well as the musicians. They’ve been practicing hard with a whole raft of new dances and the new costumes are almost complete.
This video is from a fundraising performance at Punanga Nui Market. It was a great success and another one is planned for this Saturday. Their final show before leaving is an island night at the Staircase on Monday (20 July) when all the new dances and costumes will be ready. If you’re on Rarotonga make a point of checking them out. It’s well worth while.
And if anyone in England, France or Switzerland gets the chance to visit these festivals – go for it and don’t forget to give us some feedback. Fans in the Cook Islands would love to hear all about it.
The next few videos will be longer excerpts from the dances at last week’s fundraiser.
Monday, July 13
Guest blog by Ulamila Wragg, CIFA Media
Cook Islands Football Association’s 500-seat covered grandstand with international standard changing room facilities, was opened on Friday by Prime Minister Mr Jim Marurai and FIFA Vice-President Mr Reynald Temarii in the presence of CIFA President Mr Lee Harmon.
Harmon in his speech said that in the last nine years football had brought in $12million to the country. In recognition Mr Harmon was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, the first for any Cook Islander.
“This inauguration marks the second and third phase of FIFA’s Goal Programme set by FIFA nine years ago aimed at elevating national football associations around the globe,” Mr Harmon said.
“Although CIFA has not hosted any major sporting event, our existence has brought into this country over 12-million dollars in the last nine years. As you can see football is not just a sport, it helps the economy and it is a tool to build better and stronger communities.
“This inauguration marks the dawn of a new day for the Cook Islands, a new day for our people and for football. These facilities will give our young people the opportunity to achieve their full potential at national and international levels.”
Mr Temarii, who is also president of the regional Oceania Football Confederation, told the 100 plus guests, that statistics show that the Cook Islands has a high percentage of involvement with the sport compared to other countries around the globe.
“This is a great achievement when compared to the statistics of other country.”
The Cook Islands has 8-percent (1200) of its total population registered with the sport while Spain has 6-percent, New Zealand 6-percent and France 4-percent.
Mr Temarii praised the consistent hard work put into the game of football by CIFA president, Lee Harmon.
“These objectives were shared with me by the CIFA president, Lee Harmon when we met 12 years ago for the first time in Auckland, as young presidents in the oceania confederation. he did not stop and with the support of a very committed executive committee together they have achieved. Congratulations”, Temarii said.
Cook Islands Prime Minister, the Honourable Jim Marurai, was also on hand to officially open the facilities.
Then followed the unveiling of the plaque, the blessing by Pastor Eliu Eliu and the ceremonial cutting of banana leaves before guests enjoyed a tour of the various facilities.
From humble beginningsThe official ground-breaking on what is now the ‘Home of Football' took place on 16 April 2003. With coastal land scarce and traditionally owned by families and handed down through generations, officials had spent an exhaustive two years securing the low-lying plot of land and several subsequent months implementing underground irrigation and drainage systems.
Less than a year later on 2 April 2004, the doors of CIFA's new home were flung open. The Cook Islands football community finally had a centralised facility, an important step for a country made up of island groups scattered as far as 1200km from Rarotonga.
CIFA's administrative offices were integrated into the new building and the association duly stepped up their activities, especially in the area of development. Cook Islands may be one of FIFA's smallest member associations with a mere 15,000 inhabitants, but it has an impressive track record of development programmes in a variety of areas including junior, youth and women's football, as well as coaching and refereeing.
With the completion of Goal III, the complex now has dressing rooms for players and officials, a spectator tribune with covered seating for 500 people as well as media rooms and PA capabilities.
All told, this complex is the football epicentre for the tiny Southern Pacific jewel. And in a country known as one of the most idyllic places in the world, it is only fitting there is now a picturesque home for 'the beautiful game.'
Read more about the opening on the FIFA website.
Friday, July 10
The best beaches on Rarotonga are on the south side, along Muri lagoon, but Nikao on the northwest is certainly an interesting spot.
It stretches about a kilometre, from the sea wall at the end of the airport to Black Rock, the legendary leaping off place of the spirits of the dead.
It’s made of coarse yellow sand with pieces of coral ranging from gravel-sized to large boulders, and the arrangement of sand and gravel changes every time we have extra high seas.
Black Rock is a large piece of basalt, an eroded reminder of Rarotonga’s volcanic past. There’s a channel between the land and Black Rock itself. After really heavy weather like cyclones, the sand in the channel is scoured out and it makes a great platform for kids to jump from. Then tidal action gradually brings the sand back, diving’s out and it’s back to being used for swimming.
Cyclone Heta in 2004 hit Niue really badly. Niue’s about 1000km from Rarotonga and we escaped much damage but the high seas cleaned out the Black Rock channel beautifully as you can see from the video of kids playing there. Since then the sand has gradually returned and it’s now too shallow for jumping.
The Cook Islands’ five cyclones in February/March 2005 had a major effect on Nikao beach. Vegetation was trashed, several trees toppled and large bites were taken out of the land in a couple of places. The toilet block at the Nikao social centre was demolished (the so-called ‘social centre’ was once a building - it was demolished by cyclone Sally in 1987 but the remaining concrete pad kept the name).
Coral boulders and gravel covered most of the area after the cyclones but now much of that has moved along and the sand is back.
Looking on the bright side, the cyclones washed away a lot of the rubbish that accumulates on Black Rock and the beach. It’s a sad fact of life that bottles, tins, paper and various articles of clothing are discarded there (mainly by locals I’m sorry to say).
Hermit crabs are abundant all the time. At the moment there isn’t much bird life – the occasional heron, and brown noddies when the maito are plentiful.
From September to April there are also wandering tattlers and other visitors to our shores.
On fine holiday weekends Nikao is popular with local families but on weekdays, particularly in the morning and early afternoon, you can often have the beach to yourself.
Monday, July 6
The Australian Affiliated States league team was in Rarotonga last week to play a couple of games against the Cook Islands league squad.
The AAS is the best players from the Victorian, Western Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory leagues. The Cook Islands squad, called the President’s XIII, comprised the best local players – those eligible to play for the country in the forthcoming Pacific Mini Games. There’s a residency requirement for that so overseas-based Cookies don’t qualify.
The matches were billed locally as ‘tests’ but they weren’t really as the ASS isn’t a national side. Nevertheless it did the local players good to have two tough matches against quality opposition.
We lost both games, the first 20-38 and the second 10-18.
Cook Islands News reported after the first game:
“The local team worked hard to keep up with the Australian team earlier on in the match but lagged off in the final quarter of the game.Australia led 20-10 at the half time break.The superior fitness of the Australians saw them wear down the Cooks in the last quarter to score some very good tries to increase their lead and win the game 38-20.The Cooks had their chances to score and win the game but sloppy passes and poor defence around the ruck costs them the game.”
A few months out from the mini games you might think that local athletes would be pretty fit, after all, the squad’s been selected for a while. Still, in their defence, they haven’t played any other good teams so they won’t be match-ready and this was 13-a-side whereas it’ll be 9-a-side at the games.
The CINews report on the second game said:
“While the Cook Islands league team had visibly improved since their first match against the Australian Affiliated States team on Monday, they just couldn’t bury the Aussies when they had the chance.
The Cooks … were again defeated on Thursday 18-10.
The local boys certainly held their own with the score at 8-8 in the first half.
The team even led 10-8 for part of the game.
However, a lapse in concentration in the last 10 minutes of the game with some basic errors and missed opportunities allowed the Aussies to run in two quick tries to seal the game.
The local lads certainly matched the Aussies in the physical battle but just lacked that mental toughness to really bury the Aussies when they had the chance. However, it was certainly an awesome experience for many of the local boys playing their first international game.”
Friday, July 3
All Cook Islands dancing is good to watch; the boys are dynamic and the girls graceful.
Most Cook Islanders, the ones who live here anyway, can get up and dance any time the mood takes them, but visitors should make sure they see an island night show while they are here.
‘Drums of our Forefathers’ at Highland Paradise is a musical history of Rarotonga from the time the ancestors arrived to the present day.
Legend tells of Polynesians sailing vaka (ocean-going canoes) from Avaiki – the ancestral and spiritual homeland. They settled on Rarotonga but over the years inter-tribal rivalry led to battles. There was cannibalism but it was mainly a ritual – eating a defeated enemy gave a warrior some of his strength and spirit. Dancing and chants were performed at special celebrations - the so-called grass skirts were made from the inner bark of trees.
The missionaries thought those costumes were a bit too exotic. They didn’t stop the local population dancing but made the guys wear long black pants under the skirts while the girls covered up with shorts.
The muumuu dress for women was also introduced by missionaries. It’s a long dress, often with a frill around the bottom and puffed sleeves. These days it’s made out of colourful pareu material and it’s probably the most popular dress style for both formal and less informal occasions. Well, maybe not for teeny-boppers but certainly for the more mature ladies.
Dance groups used to put on shows for visiting ships but tourism really got going when the international airport opened (in the early nineteen seventies I think).
Nowadays the groups have a variety of colourful costumes and choreographers are composing new dances all the time so Cook Islands culture is in good shape.
In fact, the Maeva Nui festival (usually held in July/August but it’s going to be later this year) is a cultural dance competition between Rarotonga villages and the outer islands. This is fiercely contested and with up to fifty performers on the stage at a time it’s quite a sight. But more on that later.
Tuesday, June 30
“Drums of our Forefathers” is the island show at Highland Paradise on Wednesdays and Fridays, performed by dance troupe E Matike.
It’s very popular and having seen it I can understand why.
Over a hundred visitors arrived in five buses and were first taken to a marae on the property where they were welcomed in a traditional way (although it was too dark to get any decent pictures of that).
Then came the feast, featuring pork, chicken and vegetables prepared in the umu that day as shown in ‘Papa Rima’s Umu’, while the E Matike singers and drummers played.
Later MC Danny Mataroa joked and chatted until it was time for the show. Part of that includes the ura piani where the dancers choose victims – ah, make that volunteers – from the audience to join them on the stage and move to the rhythm. At the end of the show anyone who wants can have friends take photos of them with the dancers. Very popular.
(Excerpts from “Drums of our Forefathers” are in the next video).
Sunday, June 28
I’ve mentioned Highland Paradise before. The tour of the beautiful gardens set in rugged hillside bush is a great way to learn something about Rarotonga’s history and culture.
They also put on an island night feast and show twice a week and I went along to a recent Wednesday night “Drums of Rarotonga”. Great fun – more on that in a later post.
But in order to have a feast, an umukai, you first need an umu. (Umu is an underground oven, kai means food). So I headed into the hills to watch Papa Rima get the umu started at about half past eight in the morning. He uses coconut husks and ironwood, they burn really hot, and gets the fire going with orange tree twigs. He then piles rocks on top and leaves it for about four hours.
Meanwhile kitchen workers are preparing the food. Pork, chicken and some of the vegetables, pumpkin and bananas, will go in the umu. Other island favourites like taro, chowmein, potato salad and various salads are cooked the normal way!
By one o’clock the rocks are hot enough and Papa Rima adds the meat and vegetables, covers them with banana leaves and then a fireproof sheet. Everything slow-cooks for about four hours and believe me, the meat is really tender when it’s time for the feast and show.
And as Papa Rima says, you can cook enough for a hundred people in one pot!
By the way, the background music in this video is a chant by the dance troupe E Matike who perform the "Drums of our forefathers" show.
Tuesday, June 23
Stretching from the Avana passage to the Papua stream, Takitumu lagoon has the best beaches on Rarotonga with palm-fringed white sand lapped by gentle waves - a real tropical island paradise.
But for many years it’s been under attack from pigs and people.
Pig farms located too close to streams cause waste to drain into the lagoon; soil from hillside house sections and dirt roads runs into the lagoon after rain; and new buildings with their septic tanks can also put a strain on the environment.
The good news is that the local population is determined safeguard the health of their lagoon. The water is safe for swimming according to WHO standards but there is a gradual deterioration of fish and coral life.
Takitumu Lagoon Day spreads the good word on environmental protection to schoolchildren and the general public. (Actually it was two days this year because it proved to be such a success last time.)
With information about things like septic tanks, environmentally friendly shopping, e-waste, non-polluting pig litter, composting, soil erosion, lagoon life and water testing, the kids had plenty to think about and questionnaires and competitions kept them all busy and entertained.
And when hunger for information turned to hunger for food plenty of refreshments were available!
Saturday, June 20
Cook Islander Maara Tetava took over as police commissioner on Wednesday 17 June.
He follows in the footsteps of New Zealander Pat Tasker who’s done a terrific job of improving the standards and morale of the islands’ police over the last two years.
The Robinson report painted a grim picture of the force but the boys (and girls) in blue now have much more public respect. They still cop a bit of flak from time to time but most people think they’re doing a reasonable job and absolutely everyone wants Maara Tetava to carry on the good work.
The weather on Wednesday was hot and what with all the speeches you had to feel sorry for the police standing on parade for several hours, especially the two drug dogs that had official uniform jackets as well as fur. Whew! Well, I was there for the march, which was accompanied by the Nikao Boys Brigade brass band, and the first few speeches but I had to leave everyone sweating and head off to another appointment so I missed out on the fun and games when the people of Mitiaro and Atiu got going.
According to the report in Cook Islands News, they sang and danced, dressed the new commissioner in traditional clothing, piled layers of ei around his neck and carried him on a paata around the parade area in front of the police station.
It was a great welcome for the country’s new top cop.
Saturday, June 13
For many years the Cook Islands Ministry of Education has organised a careers expo to give school students some ideas about job and tertiary training opportunities available to them.
This year it was held over two days at the national auditorium and was bigger and better than ever.
As well as local students – of all ages – over 60 outer islands children from Mitiaro, Mangaia, Mauke, Atiu and Aitutaki were able to attend thanks to sponsorship by way of subsidised fares from Air Rarotonga.
There were 32 booths and heaps of freebies, giveaways and competitions to keep the kids occupied and DJ G-Dub kept toes tapping with a non-stop music broadcast.
The major prize, a laptop courtesy of Rarotonga Rotary Club, was won by 17-year-old Theresa Apera of Araura College in Aitutaki.
But judging by the noise and excitement, everyone who attended was a winner this year.
Sunday, June 7
Twelve local and overseas teams joined in the fun at the two-day golden oldies rugby tournament in Rarotonga over Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Brisbane Budgies, Tauranga Old Stars, Lunchtime Legends, Grafton Big River Bullrouts, Tawa Toads, Stokes Valley Gangsters and Manukau Mudlarks were joined by Aitutaki Happy Feet, Avatiu Nikao Mongoose, Takitumu, Takuvaine Legends, Tupapa-Maraerenga and the lone Kevin Murphy (origin unknown – by me at least).
Saturday began with a march past of the teams. Then a minute’s silence was held in honour of Duncan Barrowman of Manukau Mudlarks, who was tragically killed in an accident on Friday.
Once play got under way many of the teams were ‘fruit salads’ with players from a mixture of sides.
As Cook Islands News reported, “This certainly spiced up the festival with visiting players relishing the chance to play with and against the country’s prime minister Jim Marurai and foreign affairs minister Wilkie Rasmussen who donned the black and white
jersey of Tupapa.”
Deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate, a stalwart golden oldie, was also there playing for Takitumu.
Another local star was ‘Mama Mongoose’ – Ake Hosea – a regular player for the Avatiu Nikao Mongoose team.
In golden oldies rugby everyone’s a winner and, as is the golden rule, all games ended in a six-all draw.
The weather on Saturday was brilliant but I can’t speak for Monday because by then I was in Auckland for a few days R&R (rest and retail therapy). Actually the weather in Auckland was great; sunny all day and not a cloud in the sky. Cold, mind you, but you expect it in winter and dress accordingly. It stayed like that until Friday morning when fog rolled in but it was clear at the airport and didn’t stop the return flight to Rarotonga.
A pity because back in the Cooks it was cold and wet, had been raining for days with more to come and the road home was thick with mud where trenching work had got bogged down.
Ah, the pleasures of a tropical island paradise!
Sunday, May 31
This video was filmed in December 2001.
You might wonder why the most recent blog posts have all been of days gone by.
Well, my camera broke down. It refused to zoom – stayed at the wide-angle setting all the time. Mind you, it still recorded to tape which is an improvement over last time it went belly up. Back then something weird happened with the sensors and I got pixelated images and garish colours. I had to send it back to New Zealand three times before it worked properly again. It took eight months in total to repair.
This time it’s been a mere month – that’s assuming that the repair is effective. I’m heading to NZ for a few days so I’ll pick it up and see.
I had a back-up camera but it’s feeling its age and no longer has the strength to load and eject tapes.
On top of that, I can’t get on to YouTube to upload videos. In fact, most days I can’t get on to YouTube at all unless I use a numerical IP address instead of the domain name. It’s only YouTube that’s inaccessible; everywhere else is fine so I’m storing the videos directly with Blogger at the moment. We’ve got a small home network and the problem’s the same for all the computers so it looks like a router malfunction and we’re planning to get a new one in NZ – the model we want isn’t available here.
Fortunately other hardware bits and pieces are available locally. My monitor started doing strange things - parts of it would pixelate and the desktop icons flickered. We replaced the graphics card (which was supposed to be pretty fancy and wasn’t all that old). The machine worked OK for a day or two and then the problem started up again. So we replaced the motherboard. Same thing happened. Fine for a day and then back came the flickers and blobs.
Ended up removing the graphics card completely and using the motherboard’s own graphics and (touch wood) it’s now working properly.
It’s beginning to look as though the fault lies with the graphics card not sitting properly in the case.
Living in a tropical island paradise has its drawbacks.
Back to the video.
The schooner Silent Lady spent a few years in Rarotonga when Skip Price was the owner. It was a beautiful boat and Skip did short day trips for tourists sailing from Ngatangiia Harbour out to sea and back. I’m a rotten sailor and I didn’t take any Dramamine so looking at the video makes me feel queasy all over again!
Skip sailed Silent Lady back to America for a tall ships festival and never returned. It is now owned by someone in Florida. Shame really as it really looked magnificent in this setting.
In an earlier blog (Flying High) I mentioned various air-related business ventures in the Cook Islands that have turned up their toes. I missed one – we had a helicopter for a while. It island hopped all the way from Australia to Rarotonga which was quite a feat. The company got a licence to operate here but unfortunately the chopper didn’t have a NZ airworthiness certificate (or something similar) and it’s not possible to get one here – the chopper would have had to get to New Zealand for that. Another dream bites the dust.
Water-based tourism ventures haven’t fared a lot better. Over the years we’ve had the Silent Lady, jet boats, jet skis, a hovercraft, and kayak tours. A catamaran, the Release, went aground during a cyclone but was replaced by the Hotel California which is still sailing away. Fishing charters and dive boats are also still going strong, as is the Reef Sub, but sadly many maritime ventures on Rarotonga have sunk without a trace.
Thursday, May 28
Fortunately the tide didn’t wash away the causeway and the next day it was beefed up and a Landholdings crane took over. Slings were fixed around the boat and it was hoisted off the rocks, manoeuvred onto a cradle and lifted onto the back of a trailer.
The load was heavy and there was a short, steep incline leading onto the shore so a tractor joined the parade to add muscle.
This time everything worked well, FV Ana made it to land and the best free show in town was over.
Thursday, May 21
Well, re-floating FV Ana didn’t work. It was time for plan B.
This involved T&M Heather building a causeway out to the boat. Fortunately the reef is pretty close to the shore at Panama and the lagoon is grungy – rocky foreshore, not much in the way of sand, no living coral. There were a few environmental worries but nobody had any other ideas for rescuing the boat and having it break up on the reef would no doubt have been worse for the environment.
But at the end of that day it looked as though plan B had turned to custard. As the tide came in seawater rolled over the causeway and the Ana remained stuck fast…