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.