Sunday, August 28

Waitakere United beat Cook Islands soccer team

Living in a tropical island paradise in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean has its advantages but it makes it difficult for our sports teams to get high quality international experience. It was good, therefore, to have a top New Zealand soccer team visit our shores a couple of weeks ago.
Waitakere United from West Auckland are NZ champions and they certainly showed their class in the one-off match at CIFA’s Matavera headquarters.
The local boys managed to contain the visitors for a while but after half an hour or so Waitakere hit their stride and by halftime they were four-nil ahead.
Campbell Best pulled one back for the home side early in the second half but Waitakere scored another four for a convincing 8-1 win.
The CI soccer teams (men’s and women’s) are now in New Caledonia at the 14th Pacific Games.
The Cooks men had a disappointing start when they lost their first match against Papua New Guinea 4-0.
Other teams in the soccer competition are Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Guam and American Samoa (in descending FIFA rank order) plus Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and Tuvalu who don’t seem to be ranked at the moment, probably because they haven’t played any qualifying internationals recently. I expect that may change after the Pacific Games.
Well, we’ve had a bit of controversy on Rarotonga with the government having to bail out CISNOC, the local sporting organisation who should have been organising the games squad. They announced two weeks before the team was due to depart that they didn’t have enough money to pay for the airfares. The athletes all made it to New Caledonia but it was probably a bit upsetting for them. Might have slowed them down on the field.
Good luck to them for the rest of the games. There’s a Pacific Games website here to keep in touch with events.

Monday, August 22

Pukapuka kapa rima at Te Maeva Nui

I love the Pukapukan dance ream. They’re innovative and cheeky and they really enjoy what they’re doing. It’s a pleasure to watch them.
Pukapuka’s the most isolated of the northern Cook Islands. It’s actually closer to Samoa than it is to Rarotonga, a fact that was apparent after cyclone Percy trashed the atolls in 2005 when aid from Apia reached Pukapuka before aid from Rarotonga. It’s difficult to get there. Cargo boats and Air Rarotonga flights are irregular and expensive. If the government didn’t pay for Te Maeva Nui travel it’s very unlikely that northern group islanders would be able to come and that would be a loss for everyone.
The population is round about 500, though as with other outer islands it is decreasing as people, particularly youngsters and young families, head for a better life overseas.
For an insight into life on Pukapuka read an account by Paul Lynch on the Kia Orana website ,a story that was first published by Cook Islands News.
Back to Te Maeva Nui, where the dancers from Pukapuka are always crowd favourites. This video shows excerpts from the kapa rima (action song) section. It was awarded a B grade.

Friday, August 19

Stand up paddling on Muri lagoon

The latest sport to hit Rarotonga is stand up paddling (or paddleboarding) and according to Battle of the Paddle champ Travis Grant it’s the fastest growing water sport in the world.
Aussie Grant and Australia-based Cook Islander Charlotte Piho were on Rarotonga this week to run clinics and encourage everyone to get moving in the water.
The two organised a Week of Paddling and it started with a bang with a Beauty v Brawn celebrity challenge, a guys v gals relay race. Top local athletes joined in including Kevin Iro, Reuben Dearlove, Serena Hunter, Brendan Heath, Annie Fisher and Kelly Pick, but business people not necessarily associated with sport were there too – Pacific Resort CEO Greg Stanaway and Cook Islands News owner John Woods for example, although John Woods is a keen surfer.
The race took place in front of the Pacific Resort – sponsors of both the Week of Paddling and also Charlotte’s recent search for the perfect Cook Islands wave (see this Cook Islands News story).
Charlotte’s message is that SUP is for everyone and the shallow, clear, calm waters of Muri lagoon are a fantastic place to learn. Captain Tama’s pet paddle-surfing dogs are testament to that!
For fans of Te Maeva Nui, don't worry! I've got several more performances to share with you. Keep watching.

Tuesday, August 16

Tongareva drum dance at Rarotonga’s Te Maeva Nui

The drum dance (ura pau) section of the Maeva Nui cultural competition is highly competitive and always an audience favourite with its high-energy non-stop action mainly emphasising hip and leg movement.
The Tongareva (Penrhyn) drum dance was one of four to achieve an A grade; the others were Manihiki, Aitutaki and Mauke.
These extracts show just part of Tongareva’s stunning performance.
The northern group participants, about 220 in all, came to Rarotonga on the Lady Naomi, a ferry hired from Samoa. They are heading back home today (Tuesday) and the boat is going to be pretty heavily laden as several ministries are taking advantage of the boat to get supplies up north. However the number of passengers will be fewer. According to Penrhyn MP Wilkie Rasmussen, 63 people came to Rarotonga but twenty or so are not returning. They are probably going to New Zealand or Australia if they don’t stay on Rarotonga. The total permanent population of Penrhyn is about 200. And dropping.
Staff members at the Ministry of Cultural Development are working on a DVD of the whole of Te Maeva Nui. Should be available in a few weeks – Cook Islanders and dance lovers take note.

Thursday, August 11

Mauke action song at Rarotonga’s Te Maeva Nui

The excitement’s all over now but Rarotonga really hummed while the outer islanders were here for Te Maeva Nui.
The auditorium was packed for the four nights of competition and we were all treated to a magnificent show full of sound and colour, hypnotic drum beats and sensuous movement. And you can see from the video, the performers on stage had as much fun as the audience.
I mentioned the judging system in the last post. Each item was judged on costume, composition, choreography and interpretation of the theme – signs of my island. Many of the songs and dances were about environmental issues, others about historical aspects.
A grade performances were awarded $1000, B grade $750 and C grade $500.
This video is of the Mauke kapa rima (action song). The kapa rima is a story-telling dance and is usually very graceful with lots of hand and arm movements. Mauke earned an A for this one. Manihiki, Aitutaki and Avarua also got the top grade.

Monday, August 8

A brief look at Te Maeva Nui

The heart and soul of the Cook Islands constitution celebrations is the cultural dance competition, Te Maeva Nui, held on Rarotonga last week.
This year outer island teams from Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Manihiki, Pukapuka, Rakahanga and Penrhyn entered all four culture categories (Ura Pau – drum dance; Kapa Rima – action song; Pe’e – chant; Ute – traditional song) as well as the choir and imene tuki sections. Mitiaro mamas who were here for the trade days took part in the ute and imene tuki sections. Two Rarotonga villages, Puaikura and Avarua, also entered full teams.
Large crowds flocked to the national auditorium each night to watch the exuberant, colourful performances and the enthusiastic audience added to the wonderful atmosphere inside.
The outer islands (actually ‘pa enua’ is the politically correct term we’re supposed to use these days) add a new dimension to the activities – different moves, different sounds, different stories.
Rather than one major prize, each team was judged on its performance in each section with cash awards for A, B and C grades ensuring that no one went away empty handed after the many hours of composing, choreography, costume making and practice that went into these stunning items.
The Dancer of the Year competition showcases wonderful individual skills but for the best Cook Islands dancing in the world you have to see Te Maeva Nui.
The Ministry of Cultural Development (MOCD) will have a DVD of the entire festival ready in about a month so you unfortunate people who weren’t able to be here should get a copy and see what you missed.
(Check the MOCD website here.)

Friday, August 5

Te Maeva Nui trade days

Te Maeva Nui, the Cook Islands’ constitution celebration, has been a resounding success so far with even the weather cooperating to add a sunny atmosphere to the festivities.
After last Friday’s float parade (see previous video) we had three trade days. These were markets especially to showcase outer island arts, crafts and food. They were held in the national auditorium grounds rather than at the Punanga Nui marketplace with a shuttle bus service connecting the two. This meant that the auditorium has been the focus of all activities with the evening cultural dance competitions on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Constitution Day commemoration on Thursday and the tangi kaara drumming contest (still to come on Saturday).
Trade days also featured entertainment from some of the visiting dance teams.
With fine weather and plenty of opportunity to shop for bargains, eat and have fun the trade days made for a really enjoyable Cook Islands occasion.