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World’s largest Cook Islands festival returns to Auckland stage

'Alakihihifo Vailala

1400 performers will be participating in the world’s largest Cook Islands event in Auckland.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

More than 1400 performers will be participating in the world’s largest Cook Islands event in Auckland this weekend.

Te Maeva Nui: Cook Islands Cultural Festival kicked off yesterday in West Auckland’s Trusts Arena.

Event organiser Kim Masters-Pare says they’ve had to switch up venues this year due to the large increase of performers.

Masters-Pare says “out of our 10 teams, in total there are over 1400 performers… we’ve had to increase everything - increase the changing rooms, increase the staging length”.

This biennial celebration returns for the first time since 2019 and will feature vibrant costumes and rhythmic dancing.

The theme for this year’s celebration focuses on the arrival of Christianity in the Cook Islands.

Oire Tokoroa performing. Photo / Supplied

This coincides with the island’s 200th-year celebration since Christianity was introduced.

Masters-Pare says group performances will include storytelling from the arrival of missionaries to the burning of Tangaroa idols.

Performer Warshart Bailey, who is performing with the Aitutaki Enua group, says he’s excited that the festival is making a return.

He says their group started preparing for the festival in March this year.

“Cook Island communities will be coming together. I’m excited to see family and friends who I haven’t seen in a while.”

Groups have travelled from as far as Tokoroa and the Cook Islands to participate in this year’s Te Maeva Nui.

Traditional foods, clothing

Along with performances, the festival will have stalls selling traditional Cook Island foods, accessories, clothing and instruments.

Lorna Nicholas travelled from Rarotonga to help her sister bring the popular Rarotongan eatery, Palace Takeaways to Te Maeva Nui.

Nicholas, who proudly represents the Vaka Takitumu village, says they’re also supporting their niece who is dancing in their village group.

The Nicholas family has been running Palace Takeaways since 1989 and haven’t increased the price of their burgers since.

“Anything to do with the Cook Islands, we give back to the Cook Islands. That’s what we’re here for. So we’re proud to be selling Palace Takeaways here in New Zealand.”

Hero image: Lorna Nicholas traveled to help her sister's stall. Photo / Supplied

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