Cook Is­land cul­ture cel­e­brated


At St Paul’s Catholic School, some­thing spe­cial is brew­ing.

The school pop­u­la­tion hasn’t even tipped the 150 mark. But that doesn’t stop the Ngaru­awahia stu­dents from em­brac­ing some­thing new and out of their com­fort zone.

A group of 27 stu­dents from 6 years to 13 have em­braced the Cook Is­lands in a new cul­ture group.

Prac­tis­ing twice a week dur­ing lunch times and ev­ery sec­ond Satur­day, these kids are com­mit­ted.

‘‘It’s pretty full on,’’ St Paul’s School Cook Is­land group leader Latisha Utikere said.

‘‘They’ve got to be keen, they’ve got to want to be here.’’

There were more than 50 who turned up to trial.

But with lim­ited re­sources, it wasn’t pos­si­ble to take on that many.

‘‘I didn’t ex­pect to get 50 plus...that was quite gut­ting turn­ing peo­ple away,’’ Utikere said.

Utikere said it’s un­usual for a primary school to have a Cook Is­land group, let alone one with a ‘‘fruit salad’’ mix of chil­dren.

‘‘Hav­ing a kapa haka group and a Pasi­fika group at the school is pretty cool.’’

Only four in the group were Pasi­fika in fact, she said.

‘‘We’ve got Maori, Pakeha, Ton­gan, Samoan.’’

When they ini­tially signed up to trial, she asked the ques­tion of

‘‘The an­swers they gave were 'new ex­pe­ri­ence, learn­ing a new cul­ture'’’

why they wanted to be in the group.

It was a make it or break it ques­tion given the amount of keen kids.

‘‘The an­swers they gave were ‘new ex­pe­ri­ence, learn­ing a new cul­ture’.’’

A de­ci­sion to make by hand their uni­form saw many put their hands up to strip the sugar sacks.

There was a cer­tain beauty in the way they all worked to­gether, she said.

‘‘[One day] they [a group] were all strip­ping sacks and one had a ukulele and they were singing the Cook Is­land na­tional an­them... to me, that was just wow.’’

How­ever what was to come in just un­der a year of the group’s es­tab­lish­ment was un­ex­pected, it was much more than learn­ing new dance moves and per­form­ing in front of var­i­ous au­di­ences.

‘‘One of my se­nior stu­dents, she’s from a Euro­pean back­ground and she’s wowed me... she went to Raro (Raro­tonga) and she came and said ‘I now un­der­stand’.’’

St Paul’s School Cook Is­land group leader Latisha Utikere, left, and man­ager Sherie Draper with the group.

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