Kia orana. It’s a big week for Palmerston North’s Cook Island community.
Te Reo Kuki Airaini, or Cook Island Language Week is under way, culminating in a community celebration on Saturday with Te Maeva Nui - literally ‘the big cultural celebration’ - to mark Constitution Day - the Cook Island equivalent of independence day.
The community’s Maruna Engu said the actual day was Thursday, August 4, but the celebrations, part of Cook Island life since independence was granted in 1965, traditionally took place over 10 days.
‘‘Te Reo week has been added, and on Thursday we have the launch of our play group, Kia Orana Mokopuna, between 10am and midday at the Pasifika Centre at Bill Brown Park.’’
In the evening, the Havelock Ave centre is open for traditional quilting, or tivaevae, as well as language, history, games, singing and drumming workshops.
The Constitution Day dinner, concert and party takes place at the same venue on Saturday from 6.45pm, with participants asked to bring along food.
‘‘We want to do something for the Cook Island people who live in Manawatu, and this is a time to get everyone together - especially for the older folk. For the rest of us, it’s about reconnecting with our roots.’’
Engu was not sure how many Cook Islanders lived locally, and hoped as many as possible would attend.
‘‘It’s about the essence of the day - a gathering that gets that drum going and then those hips swinging. It’s how we express ourselves - the drums, the music, the hips and the legs.’’
Language classes started two months ago in an effort to pass Cook Island te reo on to the next generation. There are 10 consonants in the Cook Island alphabet, which unlike Maori, has a ‘v’, but no ‘h’ or ‘w’.
Cook Island community advocate Annie Scoon was hoping the festivities would be attended by Cook Island High Commissioner Te Remoana Yala, who used to live in Palmerston North.
City Library is also marking Te Epetoma¯kiAoTeReoKu¯ irani with an evening celebrating Taku¯ Korero Taku¯ Peu (My language, my culture) - an evening of dance, displays and demonstrations, food, music, and drums this Friday from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
‘‘It's... a gathering that gets that drum going and then those hips swinging.’’ Maruna Engu
Making preparations for Cook Island Language Week celebrations from left are Maruna Engu, Nooauri Mataora and Vee Vekene.