The themes of all Ministry of Cultural Development events this year, including the popular Te Maeva Nui, will reflect the arrival of Christianity to the Cook Islands 200 years ago.
Cook Islands is a proud Christian nation, who embraced Christianity in 1821.
This year the country will mark 200 years of Christianity with a special event to be held on the island of Aitutaki later in the year.
And to celebrate this milestone, Ministry of Cultural Development will dedicate the themes of all its 2021 events to the arrival of Christianity here.
Secretary of Culture Anthony Turua said: “We have taken that (decision) as a national recognition of Christianity arrival to the nation.”
The sub themes for all the cultural programmes are: The activities of Christianity in the last 200 years, the impact of Christianity to our cultural identity and heritage, and what has been transmitted during the 200 years.
“This gives opportunities for our composers, artists and choreographers to develop their performances around the themes,” Turua said.
“The themes all links to Christianity and also how the Ui Ariki accepted Christianity as part of their lives and for the people.”
In preparation for Te Maeva Nui, a record number of 12 dance group leaders on the island attended a meeting at the Ministry headquarters last week.
Turua was pleasantly surprised with the huge support for the festival and sensed their (leaders) enthusiasm and passion to get back into cultural events as part of their lives.
The great interest is most likely because of the cancellation of culture festival last year due to the Covid-19, he said.
“People want to get right back into culture and be involved, a similar platform to the Cook Islands Games.”
Turua introduced three options for the leaders to consider in the case that challenges may arise because of the economic landscape and Covid-19.
The leaders chose to go with option one that includes all the usual performance categories – ura pau, action song, imene tuki, choir, pee, utu and also the float parade.
The second option was to scale down the performance numbers to an action song, ura pa’u, imene tuki and choir; the third choice was for the teams to perform on Constitution Day.
“We are looking at 10 to 12 teams, but some teams have not committed yet,” Turua said.
“The outcome from the meeting is high (favourable) and now the theme is known people can start preparing.”
The huge amount of interest in the festival from the dance teams is probably because of “people maintaining that social responsibility within themselves, balancing the economic landscape to the social landscape, so people don’t get too worried or stressed”.
“They’re out there to enjoy regardless what the landscape is and do something that their minds are ticking on.
“The Cook Islands Games and other sports have achieved this, people have gone back to exercise, are taking more care of their health, and now we are adding the cultural aspect of it – understanding their identity and heritage so it balances. And to move away from the gloom of Covid-19 and show we have better things to do.”
Turua also warned the leaders prize monies at the festival will be affected as the private sectors who usually contribute to the awards are in a completely different situation this year.
“It’s not all about money, its all about maintaining our culture.”
The cultural calendar starts off in March with the Tangi Kaara (drumming) competition for juniors (primary school) and intermediate (colleges).
Coordinator Robert Ioaba said they have received a lot of interest from the schools.
“The idea is to revive the tangi kaara.”
Culture’s director of identity Ngagtuaine Maui added: “We also need to develop our young children to learn our cultural talents and traits.”
“The tangi kaara opens the doors to others who don’t have the opportunities to join dance groups.
“We now see there are more female drummers taking up the talent of drumming and are not afraid to take up the challenge.
“For our culture to survive, we need to keep encouraging our kids and keep them involved and offer them opportunities.”
Maui expressed that “tangi kaara is an important part of our culture and for all the events like sports and special events”.
“This is all about development of our culture in our kids to feed into the future and we need to bring in the new talent.”
Only current students are allowed to enter the tangi kaara. The closing date for schools registration is February 25, 2021.