COOK ISLANDS

PERSONALITY AND CULTURE

Taka'i koe ki te papa 'enua,
'Akamou i te pito 'enua.
A'u i to'ou rangi.
You step on to solid land,
Affix the umbilical chord
And carve out your world

Puati Mata'iapo

           

The world of a Maori from the Cook Islands is unique, dynamic and interspersed with personality and culture. It projects a way of life that has constantly reflected the power of metaphor. The nakunga (wise phrase) above by traditional orator Puati Mata'iapo declared a heritage in accordance to traditions connected to one's culture. In this study, culture is defined as the total way of life of the people of a living dynamic and ever growing entity. It incorporates notable interpretations of human actions including both expressive arts and ceremonial activities. Personality is the nature and character of the people, in this case Cook Islands Maori, and includes various aspects of private and public interacting individuals and groups.

The personality and culture of the Cook Islands Maori is an exciting accumulation of traditional moana nui a kiva (Pacific Ocean), pa'enua (inter-island) networking, enriched to vaerua (spiritual) and to te ao (worldly) exchanges, and its own unique internal localized cultural developments. Invariably, constant conflicts between 'traditionalists' and 'modernists,' impact the course of those changes to Maori personality and culture, even now as the Cook Islands people weave their way through the second millennium. This paper presents both seemingly antithetic perceptions of Cook Islands Maori culture and personality: that which is cherished by the traditionalists who hope to maintain a strong element of traditional culture within the matrix of Maori personality. And those who perceive a fluid character well equipped to the changes of the new millennium. While there is a conscious effort to distinguish between personality and culture, the two concepts intertwine, reflecting the fluid nature and interaction of personality and culture.

The methodology used in this paper adapts some aspects of  Levy's approach regarding private and public behavior. These relate directly to personality and culture. However, traditional verses are constantly used in this study to highlight particular points and in keeping with the fundamental nature of vernacular language symbolism reflecting Maori personality and culture. I have also adopted a culture-based presentation format. Subsequently, Kia orana (greetings) - arguably the most frequently used Cook Islands Maori term that best reflects the culture and personality of a Maori  - becomes the organizational framework in the study. Kia orana is a particularly appropriate abstraction since it is the outward and entrenched cumulative expression of Tu Tangata.

As acronym developed from the world Kia Orana portrays what I consider to be eight essential interconnected and aspired pillars in Maori personality and culture. These are:

1. Kitepakai (wisdom)
2. 'Irinaki (faith)
3. 'Akakoromaki (patience)
4. Ora (life)
5. Rota 'i'anga (unity)
6. 'Aka'aka (humility)
7. Noa (freedom), and
8. Aro'a (love)

Although these pillars could similarly apply to other human cultures, it is the unique pattern with which they are expressed and their diverse emphasis that sets them apart as Cook Islands Maori.

Kite pakari

Kite pakari (wisdom of the ages) is one pervasive and important pillar in the personality and culture of the Cook Islands Maori. This is evidenced by a general respect for the tumu korero (oral tradition specialist), au metua (elders( and ta'unga (experts)(. As a child grows within the family, tribe and village, various ceremonies mark the recognition of its gradual accumulation of wisdom. there is a notable activity to commemorate a birth, birthday, baptism, first haircutting, wedding, title investiture, and death of a family member. With each event, increased wisdom supposedly means better understanding, knowledge, common sense and diplomatic intervention skills. It attracts the reciprocal recognition of the community, endorsing a potential gain or loss in a communal resource.  

A critical element of this wisdom in Tu Tangata lies in knowledge or appreciation of the Maori language. It is generally acknowledged that self-awareness of traditions is better developed and passed on through experience and knowledge of the language. A traditional nakunga (wise phrase) highlights this critical role of language. "Ko toku reo te i'o 'o taku peu tupuna." (My language is the essence of my culture). In other words, "without my language my culture will be lost". Language competence enables a person to fully appreciate the power of oral histories, names and places. It equips a person to respond to three crucial questions that are basic to any legitimate claim to being Cook Islands Maori:

1. Tei'ea to'ouy marae? (Where is your sacred ground)?
2. Tei'ea to'ou maunga? (Where is your mountain?)
3. Ko'ai koe? (Who are you?)

These issues are fundamental to the identity of being a true Maori of the land or more symbolically a personality with the appropriate culture.

The 'who are you?' question often shadows a Kia Orana greeting of any 'stranger'. At the Tuimu Korero Conference in Rarotonga in 1990, oral historian More Ta'unga reflected on this aspect implying in a powerful manner that he knew who he was and where he came from:

Ka'apai mai au i toku ngaru ki konei
Kua 'akarongo ratou i taku 'akaipoipo'anga 'iaku ki ronga 'ia ratou.
Kia korero au, kia 'akaari au, kia tuatua au.
 
I will carry my wave here.
They have heard my marriage to them.
I will express, show and speak.

A recitation of genealogy, chants and songs in the vernacular reinforces links with the past while enhancing hopes for the future. It is no accident that the word Maori refers to the people, the culture and the language, for they are all intertwined. Cook Islands' political leaders such as Albert Henry, Geoffrey Henry, Mana Strickland, Apenera Short and Va'inerere Tangatapoto were eloquent speakers of Maori and proponents of language and identity. All had a strong fondness for Maori culture and used language in a manner that enhanced a pride in being Maori.

Albert Henry, the first Premier of the Cook Islands, supported Maori personality and culture while often musing on the critical nature of cultural awareness.

Mea 'utu'utu meitaki 'ia te peu tupuna i to-na 'akamata'anga,
Ka tu to tatou upoko ki runga e ka ngakau parau tatou,
Ite 'akaaritari 'aere 'anga i to tatou to tikai.
'Ina ra, mei te mea e, kia vai'o 'ua ia kia 'aere ponuia'au 'ua,
Ka apai mai te reira i te tumu rangi o te akama ki runga ia tatou.

If nurtured at birth (culture) could bring us recognition and pride in showing what we really are, but if allowed to wonder aimlessly, it could bring humiliation upon us all.

Albert's cousin Geoffrey Arama Henry also had an opportunity to take over the political leadership of the Cook Islands and ascribed to a similar strong Cook islands' personality. He declares that culture is all that we have become and will become.

Kare te au peu e ko tei toia'ua ki muri, mari ra ko te rave'ia nei
'I teia 'ati'anga, e te ka rave 'ia i te au tuatau ki mua.
Ko te peu tupuna, ko ta tatou i mua ana, 'i teianei, e te au tu,
Ta tatou e umuumu nei.
 
Culture is not just the past. It is the present and the future.
It is what we once were. But it is also what we hope to be.

Both political leaders sustained their verbal homage to culture by establishing a governmental institutional support for cultural preservation, protection and development, and the encouragement of what became the widely acclaimed Cook Islands National Arts Theatre or CINAT. For Prime Minister Geoffrey Henry, the legacy extended to the establishment of a Ministry of Cultural Development and construction of an impressive multi million-dollar national cultural center. At times though, the commitment to culture fell short of the expectations of some observers and the fact that the center was called the Sir Geoffrey Henry Culture Center did not impress those Maori who pointed to 'self aggrandizement' and 'empire building.' Another deflating example of commitment highlights the establishment of the 2% personal income tax. In its parliamentary debate, the designated purpose of cultural enhancement was constantly highlighted as the primary

reason for the tax but alas, for all of the subsequent years none of the revenues raised from the levy ever went to cultural activity. Such lack of sensitivity to public expectations weighted heavily against other positive activities that include carving, pottery, jewelry and traditional navigational training workshops. Whatever their true motives, politicians who successfully ascribe to localized cultural identity generally do well in political elections. As a Tu Tangata-projected approach, the pattern of political expression often utilizes traditional performing or material artistic cultural forms. In the general elections of 1978, at least 12 songs were specifically composed in the Maori language for electioneering purposes and all included traditional proverbial verses. Some of the songs became national favorites. Campaigning forums typically included much singing, flowers and food.

An opening public speech with a traditional chant or proverbial saying in Maori typically emphasizes identity and a sense of family unity with the ancestors. The invasion therefore of other languages - including English, pidgin English and creative varieties of Maori-coined words and Maroro Maori ('flying fish' Maori where there is an intermixing of Maori and English) - all present a seemingly difficult obstacle to the continuation of the Maori language. Undoubtedly there will be an impact through language re-constructions that will change the nature of Maori personality and culture, but this type of challenge is not new, as evidenced by the difficulty in understanding many traditional chants. Such change will surely maneuver its way through a balancing act between what is acceptable by the majority and how quickly the minority reverts to what is considered to be the norm. In the final analysi8s, that mixture of volatility, adaptability and appropriate usage of traditional verses, can only enhance the continuation of Maori as a living language. 

One of the most interesting aspects of knowledge in the Maori language centers on the numerous dialects spoken in the many islands of the Cook Islands and the varying alphabets emanating from the use or non-use of different letters If one is to judge by the current usage of vernacular in popular songs, it seems that the Cook Islands Maori language will continue to develop through the interchange of various dialect words uniqueness. The lasting salvation of Tu Tangata may indeed be this continued capacity to be both adaptable and unique. Associated with language, as a pillar of Tu Tangata is irinaki.

Irinaki

In Cook Islands' Maori terms, irinaki (faith or trust in a higher power) is a significant part of personality and culture. One early missionary to the Cook Islands noted a local phrase that conceived faith as the outrigger of the soul. It implies that faith stabilizes the Maori just as the outrigger stabilizes the hull of a canoe. An illustration lies in the Maori ranganuku (altar) that has existed hundreds of years, although the god-image perceived to be receiving the offering on an altar has seemingly changed over time. The concept of faith prior to European contact played a major role in the open sea voyages and daily fishing, agricultural and social activities of the Maori. Faith continues to thrive, and is constantly fuelled by physical challenges from occasional harsh climatic conditions and visitations of death. They serve as reminders of the existence of a superior force and influence the private and public behaviour of the Maori, even through transition periods of cultural change.

One prayer during the early Christian missionary period reflects the merging of traditional and Christian gods.

Apopo, kia rauka mai teta'i au katu 'ou no te 'akatakoto ki mua i te 'atarau o Iesu
Tomorrow, may new heads be lain on the altar of Jesus.

Another prayer from the same period declares:

Kia piritia te tuatua mou ki roto i te manako o te au aronga atuakore mei te ivi rai o te ika i roto i te karaponga tei kare roa i rauka i te kiriti ki va'o.
May the word preached stick in the minds of the ungodly like a fishbone in the throat that cannot be got rid of.

The two prayers demonstrate a relationship between man and god based on a faith that was manifest in many forms before European contact. It emerged in another form at the introduction of Christianity in 1821 and led to the 'Blue laws' period when all facts of life were controlled by strict moral codes of Christian behavior. For a time thereafter, the Blue laws became an integral part of the Cook Islands Maori culture. Certain elements from that period continue to permeate as part of Tu Tangata, persevering to ferment uniqueness in expression, in spite of changing outside influences. For example, a typical Cook Islands woman going to church will wear a hat made of rito (specially prepared young coconut leaves) or imported raffia. But she will most likely avoid wearing one made from dry pandanus leaves because pandanus material was for a mat, an article that one walked, sat or slept on. It was therefore not appropriate in a sacred Christian church or on a sacred head. 

In modern Cook Islands culture and personality, prayer continues as an integral part of every day life. Fishing trips, visits into caves and even bush-beer illegal drinking parties begin invariably with a Christian prayer. cultural activities pertaining to the construction of double-hulled canoes for the 1992 Festival of Pacific Arts underline a significant role for the display of faith and community prayer. Such prayers of faith usually appeal to God through Jesus Christ but on occasions, the entreaty was also directed to traditional gods Tu, Rongo, Tane, Tangaroa or 'Io.

Part of Tu Tangata personal and public awareness includes ara o te mate, a distinction that is in mythology. But more importantly it is the spirit of a person who has passed to the west travelling back to the ancient homeland Avaiki. this phrase is still used as part of one's traditional acknowledgement of the journey of a departing spirit, a voyage that once incorporated one or more of the many gods of old. Now it must impress the one God Jehovah and his son Jesus Christ whom some Cook Islands Maori suggest is the 'Io of old and his son Tangaroa. Oral traditions highlight a familiarity to aspects of the Christian faith prior to its arrival. These include tithing offerings, blessings and circumcision. Consequently, there is a suggestion that 'Io (or Kiho or Kiho Tumu in the Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia) is an amalgam of an earlier religion with the influence of Spaniards in the 16th century. In particular, observers of Pacific history such as Robert Langdon point to the possibility of influences by Spanish castaways such as those from the 'San Lesmes' who landed in the Tuamotu islands in 1526.

While historians try to unravel such mysteries, Cook Islands traditionalists and modernists are still inter-linking with tupapa (the mystery of beginning), moana vai a vare (aa great silent deep), rangimotia (heaven) and papa te tumu 'enua uri (earth). The ranganuku (altar) interchanges between the old word karakia (chant prayer) and the new word pure (prayer) with both increasingly recognized as synonymous. Tu Tangata Maori must still accept full responsibility for personal actions and, through the power of prayer pursue a better self-image. The lords of the winds that once controlled part of a person's destiny, now shifts to the perceived modern charity of good and evil.

Except for a few declaring themselves Baha'i and ascribing to the wisdom of Baha'ulah, Tu Tangata is now generally committed to the morality of Christian beliefs. All activities ideally begin with public or private prayer. Faith in a higher being continues to dominate the life of most Cook Islanders whether Christian or non-Christian beliefs. All activities ideally begin with public or private prayher. Faith in a higher being continues to dominate the life of most Cook Islanders whether Christian or non-Christian. On formal occasions though, verses of wisdom from the pre-Christian ancestors still emerge in a unique pattern of expression merging Christian morality with self-analysis and an increasing acceptance of international influences. Tu Tangata uses the word irinaki to mean both faith and t5ust; two concepts that are generally kept separate in most other societies. In typical Maori interpersonal relationships, a person who cannot be trusts is not normally avoided but simply denied support. And a person who belongs to another religion is difficult to trust and subsequently usually unworthy of endorsement.

'Akakoromaki

Integrated with faith, emerges another pillar of Cook Islands' personality and culture projecting Tu Tangata: 'akakoromaki (patience and long suffering). In essence it alludes to integrity, responsibility and fairness. These are best understood by reviewing the manako'anga (thoughts) of the tupuna (ancestors) that have survived to the present. One common expression in Cook Islands Maori, 'aere ra may mean 'go in peace,' or 'go and beware'. Its connotation depends on circumstances.

'Akakoromaki is a common expression by Cook Islanders during times of anxiety and perturbation. There is a suggestion that one's character should incorporate the ability to have patience: perhaps even unlimited endurance. Cook Islands Maori are generally non-aggressive in both public and private. this includes the suppression of their vernacular in the presence of others who do not understand it. It also involves a certain element of control when conflicting cultural or genealogical histories are being recited. Although it is within the Cook Islands Maori personality to distinguish between the title and the person, integrity demands that the title be always publicly recognized. However, such titles are judged within the confines of their area of responsibility and accountability. Where self-interest by the other person is perceived, belief in one's own heritage becomes the guiding principle:

Na'au rai te-na, naku rai teia. Na kotou rai te-na, na matou rai teia.
Yours is yours. Mine is mine. that may be your people's, we have our own.

More Ta'unga and a ta'unga from the island of Atiu are even more revealing when each declares:

E mea 'u'una 'ia tera e au, Kare au e pa i ta-ku na teta'i
That is something hidden by me, I will not give what is mine to another.
Meaning: 'My culture is sacred to me'.
 
Kai rai koe i taau ipa ki umu. Kai rai koe i ta'au pa ki umu.
Eat your own cooked food. Eat your own cooked food.
Meaning: 'Don't take someone else's culture'.

It is a patient response to what is perceived as a challenge and recognition of the sacredness of oral traditions. Conversely, the end result is often interpreted as a secretive and exclusive approach that tends to discourage many young Cook Islanders from continuing to practise unique tribal traditions.

Poetic phrases can also be a challenge by the Maori who lives in the tribal home island to family members living elsewhere. With most Cook Islanders now living overseas, the expression of patience takes on a multi-layered perspective influenced by new learned behavior patterns thereby continuing to revitalize Tu Tangata. This underscores another pillar of culture and personality because most tumu korero (oral specialists) suggests that patience and long suffering must eventually bring forth life.

Ora

A particularly conscious expression of ora (life) lies in the Tu Tangatu connection to the land. Perhaps the strongest identity symbolism of this is the pito 'enua, (the navel of the land). The earlier verse by Puati Mata'iapo at the beginning of this paper alludes to that. More Ta'ranga also declares the umbilical nature of the connection between land, culture and personality.

E pukari 'oki toku mei pokerekere mai.
E ngutapa katoa 'oki au no te 'oroega 'anga muna,I te ru-ru aere 'anga i taiku au 'ua ki runga i te one 'uri'uri,
Kia kore roa e taui ia toku to mei tei tapapa ia.
Ka makitoa tutu rai au kimua ma te kore toa e temanamanata 'anga.
No te mea, ko te tumu 'enua nei, ko te papa tei reira i raro ake 'iaku
I have matured from the ancient past
I am also the door for those who create secrets.
To sow my seeds on the red soil, so that my character
Is never changed from its origin, so it will not be interfered with
Because the base of the land, is the foundation underneath me.

In other words, life needs stability and that begins by knowing your land and the sacred responsibility pertaining to it.
As important part is a realization that you have inherited knowledge and traditions pertaining to land from your ancestors and that you are responsible for their protection and growth.

The traditional po kai (feasting night), pokai tiro (tribal feast celebrating an event or entertaining visiting chiefs) and pokai tapini (tribal feast to entertain visitors) are now simply umukai (feast) or the more recently disturbing development referred to as tarikai (take the food). Although traditional terminology re-emerges on occasions such as miriaia (festival during the season of plenty) tarakai (a festival highlighting a day of rejoicing), and takurua (one of the great feasts held on special occasions). Food becomes a celebration of life but its life-generating link with land is ever present.

Land is more than just the provider of food crops, medicines and materials for clothing and housing. It is both where one is born and buried. It is life. Land is perceived as a living entity with the capacity to reward the generous and swallow th4 greedy. When a person is forcibly removed from land that they and their ancestors have lived on continuously, the warning cry is 'The land will feel the tears'. Burying of the after-birth and those who have died, underlines the most visibly powerful element of personality and culture. It is an important identification of one's village or island often sustained by physical and symbolic umbilical link. this is further solidified by a link to a marae (sacred area), to a hill and to a specific tribe. Ei toke no te 'enua, (a person of the land) is a cry of 'belonging' as opposed to the manu'iri. While the physical burial of a placenta and the planting of a tree have diminished, the custom is still commonly shared in oral traditions as an important heritage for securing connections and this is carried out when it is practically possible.

The return of some of those who have died overseas, even if they have lived most their lives overseas, seems to reconnect the deceased to the land, as well as all of his descendants and extended family. In 1999, Air New Zealand identified an average to one body being transported back to the Cook Islands for burial each month. Accompanying each corpse in flight would be an average of ten people. Financial costs, changing cultural values and distances tend to undermine it higher percentage of returns home for last rites. In spite of the constraints, these interwoven connections of land, genealogy and oral history continue to be adhered to in the personality and character of the Maori of the second millennium. Kare ona tatatau mei toku: (That person has no tattoo like mine) is a symbolic statement that singles out the stranger who has no interconnections that qualify him as Maori. One important 'tattoo' symbol is the association of being linked to a particular land. This may be an element in an underlying subtle power of the existing 'overseas political constituency' where many Cook Islanders who live outside of the Cook Islands cherish their bond with the homeland. Songs composed by Cook Islanders overseas entreat this yearning for home.

A struggle for land is a struggle for life. As lands become subdivided and fences seemingly create artificial boundaries, man's role as caretaker of land continues to nag the consciousness of the Maori. the notion of ownership merely gives a sense of artificial commitment directly influenced by the law of local and national government. Many, who battle for 'ownership' of a quarter acre, seemingly abandon it years later when they migrate overseas. this contradiction is farther complicated by an increasing demand for changes in the use of land and an increasing lack in the ceremonial removal of bones from old burial sites. Amidst this, weddings, funerals, haircutting ceremonies and investitures still require genealogy recitation as if to maintain links with bones of ancestors and the land, even if the event occurs in such faraway countries as Australia and New Zealand. It is almost a responsibility. the continuation of that responsibility highlights another pillar in the Cook Islands personality rota'i'anga.

Rota'i'anga

To appreciate rota'i'anga (unity), one has to understand protocol and the importance of portraying good citizenship. Many Maori public speechmakers begin their ordinary by declaring a verse of wisdom such as:

E ra kurakura teia, kua nakenake mai.
This is a bright cheerful day, it makes one cheerful and happy.
Meaning: 'Happiness is reflected in your attitude..

It is a plea for unity, understanding and good citizenship. Duties to the family, village and country are important aspects of citizenship. this is an expanded expectation of civic duties and obeying of the nation's laws. Respect for the country's political leaders including departmental heads and the head of state are all embracing. Pride in being united under one flag, one national anthem and one cultural identity.

Part of this communal - though seemingly individualistic - unity consciousness, lies in an awareness of linkages through genealogy, history and mythology. The Tu Tangata Maori selectively incorporates the private or public acknowledgement of his connections with other parts of the world. Historically the mysteries of ancestry, various Avaiki (former place of origin) and community affiliations vary from tribe to tribe. Collectively it includes theislands of Mangaia, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Nukuhiva, Rapanui, Ra'iatea, Fijui and Tonga. Descendants add the connections with Aotearoa, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Hawai'i, Tuamotu, Rurutu, Torres Strait Islands and, back-migration to Tahiti, Ra'iatea and Rapanui.

The Hawai'i connection is one interesting example of this unity through connections. It emanates from such mythical heroes as Maui, who reportedly voyaged from Rarotonga toward the north where he fished up 'Mauiui' (Maui), 'Vai'i (Hawaii and Ngangai' (Lanai). Naea who originated from Puaikura in Rarotonga, sailed on his double hulled canoe called 'Atearoa' and settled on the island of 'Oahu' ('Vau' in Rarotonga). He landed at a place called 'Kanaunau' or 'Konunau' and called it 'Avaiki-Nui-O-Naea'. The Naea name lives on in Rarotonga. Reportedly, one descendant of Naea in Hawai'i is none other than King Kamehameha of Hawaii.

There are also other heroes: Teamariki, Ruatapa, Rata and Mahuta. Curiously, there exists a marae (sacred area) in Oahu, Hawaii referred to as Te Pu'u o Mahuta. Mahuta apparently sailed from Mangarongaro (Penrhyn) to Hawai'i. Tamarua Paipai also journeyed from Rarotonga to Hawai'i in the pre-European contact era. In addition, the great Tangi'ta Nui who settled in Rarotonga over a thousand years ago is believed to have direct links to Hawaii. Te-Ameamea, (believed to be from the Kamehameha line in Hawaii), was visiting Ra'iatea in what is now known as French Polynesia when she met Makea Apera, a paramount chief from Rarotonga, who was also visiting Ra'iatea at the time. Makea Apera married Ameamea and took her to Rarotonga. Their descendants continue to succeed the chiefly title of Makea. The story of Pare'anga, the fisherman from Aitutaki, is a more contemporary connection between the Cook Islands and Hawai'i. Pare'anga, father of Tini Pare'anga, was fishing outside the reef in Aitutaki when he was shanghaied by a whaleboat and forced to be a member of  its crew. His canoe was found floating. Pare'anga was eventually taken to Hawai'i but it is not known if he has any descendants there.

The links of the modern Cook Islands Maori personality also incorporate other modern linkages. With the majority of the Cook Islands Maori now living in New Zealand and Australia, the pillar portraying unity increasingly includes interracial connections, thus enhancing intermarriages that existed in the past. A series of reunions by many families under their common Maori, European or Chinese ancestry continually enrich a mobile Tu Tangata. Cook Islands' culture acknowledges the rights of a Maori person even if the claim to that traditional heritage is a mere percentage, much of the heritage emanating from other cultures and ethnic groups. the Tu Tangata recognizes that claims might be challenged buy rights through established links could never be denied.

'Aka'aka

'Aka'ka (humility) is one outward pillar of a Cook Islands Maori persona often veiled through ceremonies and expectations of protocol. Ceremonies were once linked more to the celestial stars and called 'Erui mua (held in February). 'Erui tutae nuk (held in March), 'Aka'au ariki (held in May) and 'Aka'au Atua (held in June). Rituals of the modern Maori are more diversified and include Queen's Birthday, ANZAC, Christmas, Easter, New Year, national constitutional day, weddings, funerals, birthdays, baptism and haircutting. All pull together with an increasingly politically motivated Tu Tangata where participation is more for status maintenance, a reconnection of links or simply a chance for a meal prepared by someone else.

Peu tupuna (custom) resonate traditions with modern ceremonies, depending on the occasion. There are many such traditional ceremonies.

'Aka-'enua - an ancient custom observed in former times by a voyaging chief who claimed hospitality and friendship as a right because of blood right to the lands.

Po aroara marae - the night of religious observations at the marae when worshippers celebrated in thanksgiving to a special god: a reference to the awakening of the marae. 'Ko uruuru - an ancient ceremony of divination, a final part in the investiture of a high chief.

Tukura tapu - a sacred festival at which there is the enactment of the procession of gods.

Te pure-rangi - an ancient ceremonial festival where offerings were made to the gods of the non-earth region.

These were all significant ceremonies in the making of the humble character of the Maori. They no longer exist in complete traditional form but most continue in some adopted format. These include epaepa, another ceremony consecrating or honoring; po roro a special day for a haircut; va kainga - blanching and beautification, and vaka pupu the presenting and parading girls. Honoring and haircutting ceremonies are part of the living culture and even the concept of Ma'ine Kuki Airani (Miss Cook Islands) is not totally a modern day concept of celebrating the beauty and talents of women. It is simply a newer version of an older idea.

The veiled complicated pillar of humility emerges further when a close study is made of current Cook Islands' political development. Opposition political parties have often found difficulty mastering support to win election because of the tendency of the people to favour non-aggressive response - a perception of humility. A sustained direct challenge of authority is comparatively rare, with most disillusioned Cook Islanders choosing to leave rather than stay to fight political problems. The influence of Christianity and the dominating pressure of colonial government that included corporal punishment for the exercise of the such basic rights as speaking one's own vernacular in school, all add to the development of this pillar in Cook Islands culture.

Other associated aspects include a tendency to be a non-aggressive or 'silent' participant in community meetings and a preference to express disagreements about public issues in private. This can sometimes include an active private campaign against selected members of one's own family often in preference for a comparatively complete stranger. A preference for the advice of an outsider to that from an insider. This humility pillar does not always emanate positive values but it is nevertheless a forceful aspect of Te Tangata.

Noa

Another powerful aspect of Tu Tangata emerges through the concept of noa (freedom expressed within certain boundaries). Discipline with a strong Christianized interpretation, lays a major role in defining the expected social behaviour, although this is now depressed by an increase in both availability and diversity of social activities. The change in Tu Tangata is especially dramatic where consumption of one's choice of drink, including alcohol, is generally available to all age groups. The freedom to have sexual relationships at an early teen age has also become common place although some would argue that the related and continuing practice of tomo 'are (house entry) is evidence of old youthful courtship practices that were always present.

Noa is also visibly recognized through competitive sports and expressive arts appreciation. This includes the private and public behaviour of individuals regarding their understanding, performance, anticipation and outward expression of appreciation of all Cook Islands Maori performing and and material artrs. One of these is reflected int he Cook Islands' Maori 'apinga 'akatangi (musical instruments) consisting primarily of wind and percussion instruments. these instruments are used to produce a wide array of musical sounds. they can be described or performed as tangi ka'ara (drum orchestration festival), 'akateni (string band festival), kapa nui (dance festival), amu (melody chant), 'imene reo metua (traditional song), 'imene tuki (song in chant), 'imene kaparina (action song) or nuku (historical pageants). The karakia (prayer), pe'e (chant), piri (puzzles) and 'akatutu (choreography) also add to the private or public expression of culture that are performed solo, all male group, all female group or mixed male and female. there are no age boundaries for anyone who wishes to freely express their feelings through musical or dance form.

Dancing is another one of the more visible ways of free-expression. In her book In the Strange South Seas, Beatrice Grimshaw wrote, "Cook Islanders are among the most musical of the Pacific races" That musical and dancing ability has become renowned among Pacific Islanders. When Captain Cook visited Mangaia Island in the late 1700s, he also witnessed a sample of Cook Islands expressive arts. The strict adherence to performance or non-performance by same sex groups during the pre-Christian contact period has since become more diverse. Such expressions could be asserted in a multiplicity of ways. Includes 'aka-araara'anga (a chant to awaken), 'akateni (eulogy), 'akateniteni (old time war cry), aka (ancient form of tribal dance), amu (an epic or heroic poem telling the life story of the deeds of a heroic warrior or chief) and 'apare (lamenting at death). In th4e old ways, songs were laments. Now they are hymns. 'Apure 'eva was a tribal custom involving singing or chanting, consoling or comforting songs after the burial of a obs3essed person. Apeapetini involved different entertainment and ceremonies that might include 'ia or pageant. Such customary activities have been constantly adapted into the dynamic Tu Tangata personality underscoring the wealth in variety of opportunities available for expressing both private and public freedom.

Other expressive forms highlight the language knowledge of the individual 0 a direct combination of the two pillars of language and expressive appreciation.

A makunga or parapore (verses of wisdom proverbs) declares:

Kare e 'oko 'iana te 'irinaki i'anga, ki te ma'rama o te tuitui ipakika'a.
A person cannot buy hope with the light of false candlenuts.
Meaning: 'Hope is free but one has to base it on reality'.

The reality includes tua ta'ito (legend) and peu tupuna (ancient custom/re-enacted legend) for they cannot be eliminated from being woven into the character of the Cook Islands Maori. Adaptability to continuing changes are tackled by incorporating the ancient arts of 'atu (composing). 

Aro'a

The ultimate pillar in the projection of Tu Tangata highlights the last letter in the word Kia orana which in itself, connotates aro'a (love). A traditional nakonga underscores the personal and public nature of a Cook Islands Maori who privately seems fearful but publicly displays bravery by their actions.

E pakiri maroki'aki'a to te 'akari, e vai 'uara to-na puku'atu.
The coconut has is hard skin but a watery heart.
Meaning: 'You can have fear to your hearts but bravery in your actions.

Bravely in action interlocks with the art of carting Cook Islanders generally exert attributes of caring, often openly expressing genuine concern for the welfare of others. This is seen through the chain migration of families overseas to their loved ones back in the islands, and the amount of food contributed to tere or visiting team, or family and village events among various Cook Islands Maori communities. Activities that include 'akaipoipo (weddings), pakoti rouru (hair cutting), 'akamarokura (bestowing a traditional title) pupatiko (baptism) mate (funeral), 'uaki'anga toka (unveiling), 'o'ora (offering of gifts), papatito (baptism), mate (funeral, 'uaki'anga toka (unveiling), 'o'ora (offering ofgifts), 'ariki'anga taeake (welcoming guests), tamataora (entertaining).

The pain and pleasure of others is supposedly of concern and there is always a physical and emotional response. To reciprocate in a positive manner is considered to be the norm and emotional response. To reciprocate in a positive manner is considered to be the norm but during any actual presentation of gifts, there is no presumed expectation of rewards. However, if given the opportunity to respond to the needy or to reciprocate, any lack of caring known as mats piko or bowe3d head, underscores a behaviour that is unbecoming of any person who claims to have a Cook Islands Maori personality. Food, money, volunteer work, needed resources and relevant information are offered willingly. It takes on the opulence of an art  because such contributions are made in a particular manner and style. chants often accompany food offerings, dance expressions go with monetary gifts in performance displays, and ritualized speeches are made at the bedside of the de3ad. Maintaining this art of caring is complicated by the contradictions of extended family responsibilities and immediate family needs, and changing attitudes to personal wealth. However, tribal affiliations, religious moral beliefs, sporting contacts and Maori family connections combine to enhance the continuing expectation that the Tu Tangata of a Maori does still require a caring attitude.

The art of giving is often demonstrated with kaikai (eating) for what is culture and personally without food. While thee is now a tendency for the umukai (feast) to turn into a tarikai (taking food) the formally and informally of food preparation and food sharing continues to reflect dishes that are considered Maori and necessary for a truly "traditionally" connect4d feast. Such dishes would have to include ika mata (raw fish), poke (specially prepared baked starch and fruit or a root crop) puaka (pork), moa, (chicken) mayonnaise, taro (root crop) and a variety of specialized dishes.

Kia orana (greetings) is te aro'a motukore, the eternity of love. It is a common expression by Co9ok Islanders that builds bridges through the spirit of love. Kia orana literally means 'may you live for a long time'. In essence therefore, Kia orana is the unity of the heart, the mind and the soul within each of those who make the expression and those who receive. It is an act of humility that positively reaches out to others. It is a mirror reflection of Tu Tangata. And it is common for Kia orana to be sustained by an act of touching through an 'ongi, one or two kisses to the face, or other parts of the body such as the hand or thighs in the case of an older person greeting a younger one.

Traditionally, the 'ongi consisted of a touching of noses accompanied by a 'sniff' to take in the precious fragrance of life'. Alternatively, there would be a handshake. In the past, such handshakes were carried out with the left hand to keep the right hand free in case there was a need to resort to an attack or defense. In today's society, most Cook Islands Maori have adopted the Christian missionary initiated handshake of using he right hand and for the young, the more recent varying versions of the 'high five'. The private and public nature of the Cook Islands Maori show an idealism of being gentle and kind so that others may be friendly and helpful. A nakunga advises:

Kia ma-ru e vara e kai ei koe i te 'inu'inu o Mangaia.
Be gentle, my friends, so that you may eat the fat of Mangaia.

Despite all the spiritual and physical changes of worldly exchanges, inter-tribal and international exchanges, in the final analysis, Tu Tangata Maori remains a distinctive reality. Although merging to survive in an incr3easingly fast paced technological era, the changing personality and culture of the Cook Islands Maori will always retain uniqueness as long as it continues to maintain some aspects of dress from its unique cultural history.

An old man I knew in the 1960s often said to me, "Aru i te ara o te ra." (Follow the pathway of the sun.) What he meant was simply, pursue the postive elements in your culture.

The late Albert Henry presented another perspective that resonates as we leave this discussion:

Mei te mea e kia rakei 'ia teta'i pu nu ki teta'i au ka'ui meika,
Kua 'aka turevake'ia kia tutou te tu o te pu'nu.

 

A coconut tree decorated with bunches of bananas when it should be bunches of coconuts falsifies the tree.
meaning: Culture no longer fits a country's traditions if it adopts the outside influence to the extent that it becomes out of place.

While certain elements of the Cook Islands personality and culture may sometimes seem out of place, the overall essence of what is Tu Tangata remain as a fascinating compilation of general elements that this paper has reviewed. As well as a deeper uniqueness found in almost all of the individual islands, tribes or villages. Such peculiarity allows some generalizations to be made of individual island groups. For example, the Maori of Mangaia who live in a harsh raised coral island and often exposed to a cold frost, tend to be reserved, hardworking, quiet and speak in a soft melodious vernacular. In contrast, Aitutaki, and island blessed with both an easily accessible lagoon full of sea life and fertile land, show people speaking openly, loudly, often jesting and trying to send as much time as possible socializing and entertaining. The people of the more isolated northern group coral islands such as Mangarongaro (Penrhyn and Manihiki) are more assertive. They use more letters in their alphabet and their music of songs, drums and string instruments tend to be high itched as opposed to the previous islands already mentioned. The Maori with Rarotonga roots expose more sophistication, pride and self-confidence. that multitude in peculiarity among the islands and tribes is beyond the scope of this paper but does ensure that in the face of outside influences, Tu Tangata continues to be dynamic and integrated. 

Cook Islands Home Page
 
Polynesia Postcards and Picture Galleries
 
Jane's Oceania Home Page
 

Pacific Islands Radio Stations

 
 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com  -- Rev. 10th May 2008)
 

eXTReMe Tracker