Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Tu Rangatira Awards kick off celebration of Cook Islands language and culture

By John Utanga

The 2021 Te Maeva Nui Festival wrapped up last week. It was a celebration of Cook Islands language and culture, and it began with the Tu Rangatira Awards.

The Tu Rangatira Awards was held at the Barfoot and Thompson stadium in Auckland. Organisers wanted to pay tribute to Cook Islanders who had made a difference in their communities.

Organising group chairperson No’o Pare says it’s a huge undertaking for them.

“It’s taken us a while trying to figure out how to make it happen, just so we can express our appreciation to those who have tirelessly continued to serve our communities,” No’o says.

No’o is the chairman of the Te Maeva Nui O Aotearoa New Zealand Charitable Trust. They created this awards event in 2019. Back then it focused on the achievement of the community’s vaine tini, or womenfolk. This time, they have changed it into the Tu Rangatira Awards to include the wider community.

Board member Frances Topa-Fariu says it’s important of the whole community to acknowledge its success stories while celebrating what it means to be a Cook Islander.

“Through this Maeva Nui, we have also seen the talents and skills that our people possess. Talents and skills that have never been exposed.

“Te Maeva Nui is founded on our language and culture, and this has been the drive behind this Tu Rangatira Awards.”

Among the guests at the awards were ministers from the Cook Islands government, here to celebrate Te Maeva Nui and to strengthen ties with the community.

“Our theme is based around the ‘heart of the warrior’,” says Cook Islands Education Minister Mac Mokoroa.

“It’s really heartwarming to see what’s happening tonight; our culture, language and tradition is alive.”

It has taken many years for the community here to celebrate its achievements, and Topa-Fariu says it’s important to acknowledge those who have passed on.

“Those who passed on have called New Zealand the ‘land of Milk and honey’. But I’ve been asking myself, where is this milk and where is this honey?” says Topa-Fariu.

“Tonight, we saw through the achievements of our awards recipients that they and some of those who have passed [and] have found that milk and honey through the different categories of this award.”

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