Cook Island Cultural Group

Kare te au peu e ko tei toia'ua ki muri, mari ra ko te rave'ia nei 'I teia 'ati'anga ,e te ka rave 'ia i te au tuatau ki mua.Ko te peu tupuna, ko ta tatou i mua ana, 'i teianei, e te au tu,
Ta tatou e umuumu nei. ( translation )


Culture is not just the past. It is the present and the future. It is what we once were. But it is also what we hope to be.

                                                                                            Geoffrey Arama Henry

I mua ake ka tae ei tetai nga tangata Paniora ki Pukapuka koia a Alvaro de Mendana e Pedro Quiros i te ra 20 o Aukute, 1595, te vai nei ta te Kuki Airani akanoonooanga no runga i tana ravenga i te akakite anga i tana au akonoanga peu tupuna.

Ko teia au akanoonooanga koia oki ko te Pia Atua (e ngutuare tei akataka ia no te au atua), ko te Are Korero (ei konei te au Tumu Korero tua ei i te au tuatua tapapa taito), ko te Are Karioi (e are ura e te tamataora), ko te Are Pana (te apii anga i te au vaine i te tu no runga i te oraanga i roto i te kopu tangata mou taoanga enua), ko te Are Toa (te apiianga i te au mapu tane no runga i te angaanga tamaki e tona tu karape) e pera katoa te Are Vananga (te orongaanga e te apiianga i te au kite karape ki tetai).
Kua riro teia au ngutuare ei mataara i te akakoukouanga e te akakiteanga i te mana kite pakari o te au taunga, ma te akakaka i to ratou iti tangata.

I konei oki i raro ake i te au angaanga takake a te au Ta'unga i rauka ei te kite o te iti tangata no runga i to ratou au atua, te tu karape o te ura, te tu akatangi tukeke o te tokere, te tatau anga o te au kena enua, te tu rangatira i te akateretere vaka e pera te au tuatua tapapa no runga i tona uaorai tupuanga .


The term museum is not a new concept in the traditional history of the Cook Islands. Prior to the sighting of Pukapuka Island by the Spanish explorers Alvaro de Mendana and Pedro Quiros on August 20, 1595, the Cook Islands had it's own social structures which catered for various forms of artistic expressions.  These institutions were called the Pia-Atua (housing tribal gods), Are Korero (tribal historians narrating the stories of old), Are Karioi (house of dance and entertainment), Are Pana (teaching ladies the lifestyle of the titled class), Are Toa (teaching the young men the art of warfare) and the Are Vananga (the passing on of esoteric knowledge).  These places were vehicles of knowledge, housing national treasures which represented and glorified the local tribes. It was here that under the curatorship of a Ta'unga that the tribes learned about the gods and the celestial bodies, the graceful movements of the tamure and the rhythym of the tokere, the roadsigns of nature and the deliberate voyaging canoes and the traditional history of the people.


The Culture


Thanks to the islands' close links with nearby New Zealand and Australia, the contemporary face of the Cook Islands is surprisingly modern. The main island of Rarotonga is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan place, characterised as much by neatly tended lawns, Western-style clothing and modern houses as by any overt signs of traditional Polynesian culture. But beneath this strongly Westernised veneer, many aspects of traditional Maori culture survive and inform practically every aspect of the way Cook Islanders live and work. It's in the land system - how it's inherited, how it's managed and how it's leased (but never sold). It's in the way people transact business. It lives on in Cook Islands hospitality, in dance, music and celebration, in the preparation of food, the wearing of flowers, the language, and in many other day-to-day ways of doing things.

It's important to remember, though, that the Cook Islands has only existed as a unified country for a relatively short while - initially as the Hervey Islands, then as the Cook Islands under British and New Zealand rule, and later as an independent nation. Previously, each island was essentially a world apart, with distinct customs, traditions and tribal structures. You'll still find this sense of individual island identity today: though many people collectively think of themselves as Cook Islanders, most still refer to their own particular 'home island' and will happily relate - often at great length - exactly what sets one particular island and its people apart from another.

But in the few short decades since independence, the Cook Islands has developed a remarkably strong sense of self, bolstered by the programme of 'nation-building' implemented by the first prime minister, Albert Henry, which encouraged Cook Islanders to actively participate in forging their new national identity. Politics, sport, dance, music, and the ever-troublesome issues of land and inheritance, are all universal passions, and most Cook Islanders share a collective belief in the importance of community, family and the preservation of traditional values. As the islands' population continues to decline, and fewer young people show an interest in preserving traditional skills, practices and customs in favour of higher wages and easier lives overseas, the importance of shared national values in the Cook Islands promises to become more and more significant.

(Oliver Berry)


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