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Rotorua’s Cook Islands shop embraces language week celebrations

Natasha Hill,

Rotorua's Cook Islands shop embraces language week celebrations

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Ruta Mare Metuataopu’s business Rutah’s Kukihut started with a passion to share Cook Islands cuisine in Rotorua.

She moved to New Zealand with her family in 2007 and began cooking and selling Cook Islands food to fundraise for their church and community. This led to the idea of setting up Rutah’s Kukihut, which wasn’t initially a part of her career plans.

“I looked around and saw none of our food. It gave me the passion.”

“We all love cooking from home and that’s what made me thrive as well.”

She shared her story to mark Cook Islands Language Week, which started on Monday.

The theme for this year’s language week is “Ātuitui’ia au ki te au peu o tōku kāinga Ipukarea”, which translates to “connect me to the traditions and culture of my homeland”.

The focus of the week is to bring together and connect Cook Islanders to their rich heritage.

She and her family were excited to celebrate and share their culture, as they do through the business.

Starting the shop was not without challenges, as the couple had only $300 to begin, and it was hard to purchase quality products.

“We didn’t have the money to purchase good stuff that other businesses have.”

Now, they are in a position to expand into other regions. Te Puke is their next target.

“I see a lot of our Pacific Islanders and that’s what I’m looking forward for… targeting our people, our Pacific people, to provide our food.”

Cook Islands comfort food. Photo / Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

To kick off Cook Islands Language Week, Rutah’s Kukihut prepared an exciting programme that started on Sunday.

Her planned festivities began with the raising of the flag accompanied by traditional drumming, officially marking the start of Cook Islands Language Week.

The Cook Islands Community Hall also planned to host various activities, including arts and crafts workshops, where Metuataopu would be teaching.

Metuataopu had an open invitation for all to join the celebrations.

“We will have all our food and we’ll have dancing and all of that,” she said.

Cook Islands Language Week ends on Saturday.

Hero Image: Ruta Mare Metuataopu loves to share her passion for Cook Islands food in Rotorua. Photo / Grace Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

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