Everything Tutevera Emma Wichman-Evans did in her life was done with an open heart and in pursuit of helping others achieve their dreams.
Born on July 4 1969, Tutevera was the youngest of seven children of the late Apai and June Wichman of Vaka Puai Kura, Tutu was extremely proud of her Cook Islands heritage.
Tutevera and her husband Duane used every opportunity and connection they had to help showcase and promote Cook Islands, Pacifica and Maori culture.
Tributes have been flowing for Tutevera Wichman-Evans, affectionately known as Tutu who passed away on June 29 after a brief and brave battle with illness.
People from the Cook Islands, New Zealand and around the world have remembered a beautiful soul, who was a passionate advocate for Cook Islands and Polynesian cultures through music, television, film and creative arts.
A Jam Night Celebration was held in Auckland on July 1 to honour her life, with the live stream being viewed by thousands from around the world.
Celebrity artists who have worked with her over the years performed and shared many fond memories of working with Tutu, some of the artists included Ben Makisi, Taesha, Jamoa Jam, Brother Love, Jerome Pare, King Kapisi and many more.
Her children and siblings shared stories and their memories of their beautiful mother and sister, there were both tears and laughter as they described “the look”.
Those who knew Tutu well, would know exactly “look” they were referring to.
To help celebrate Tutu’s continuous contribution to the Cook Islands community in New Zealand, a tribute concert was held on July 4 by the Cook Islands community, which included performances by Heimana Music, Tahiti Ia Ora, Vaimutu String Band, Anuanua dance troops, Brother Love, Tauraki Sisters, Ardijah and many more.
While this concert night was a tribute to this beautiful women, it was also a special celebration with family and friends, to mark her 51st birthday.
Tutu was laid to rest in Motatau in the Far North of New Zealand on Sunday July 5 with her family and friends of which many travelled from Auckland.
Her sister Emily, brothers Albert, Henry, Geoffrey, Harry and Norman all made the final journey with their sister.
Even in her early years Tutu was destined for the stage. While attending Mt Albert Primary School in Auckland, she wrote and stared in her very own play and stage production, Tutu’s Strangest Dream.
Tutu’s cousin Michelle Simiona-Teoteo and her dearest friend Rozada Grey, who both performed with Tutu, recall the play being about traveling around the world and learning about other cultures, including being able to sing the national anthems of those countries.
She was in her element and starred on centre stage, singing and leading the other members of the performance whether they were backup singers, dances or human props.
Tutu wanted to educate her fellow students on cultures from all around the world - New Zealand, France, United States, England, Australia and the South Pacific. This was Tutu’s first live performance. It was a huge success and the beginning of so much more that followed.
Tutu attended Kowhai Intermediate where she was house captain of Pah House and a school prefect.
During her time at Kowhai, Tutu won a school speech competition sponsored by Rotary, an achievement her mum and dad were very proud of.
Not only did Tutu have the voice of an angel and the beauty of a true island princess, she also completed three years of a law degree at Auckland University – but she discovered her true love of music and the career she truly wanted to pursue and there started her entertainment journey.
Talent runs through the veins of the Wichman-Evans family: Tutu and Duane’s son, Duane Jr starred in New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street for a number of years and plays Rotxo of the Metkayina clan, who are a reef tribe in the upcoming Avatar sequels.
Tutu along with her husband Duane Evans ran the largest Maori and Pacific Island entertainment company in the world, Oyster Entertainment.
Oyster Entertainment has been promoting mainstream and Maori and Pacific Island entertainers for more than 30 years.
Through Oyster Entertainment, Tutu was able to share her talent as well as helping other Pacific Island artists showcase theirs, regardless of the performing art.
Oyster Entertainment was heavily involved in the Style Pasifika Fashion Shows and Pasifika Festivals held at Western Springs and New Zealand Wearable Arts awards held in Wellington.
They also provided first class entertainers for the 2012 Rugby World Cup held in New Zealand and entertainment at many of the Warriors rugby league games at Mt Smart Stadium.
More recently Tutu performed in Los Angeles at the Avatar wrap party as an international performer.
One of the most recent projects Tutu was instrumental in organising, along with husband Duane, was the first Te Maeva Nui Festival that was held in Auckland last year. They also assisted in producing and organising the Vaine Rangatira Awards in 2019. Both these events were hailed as extremely successful receiving many accolades.
Tutevera was also a recording artist. Songs from her first album Te Ariki are played on radio stations throughout the Pacific and you will find her music and videos on YouTube.
Tutu will be loved and missed by many, she will be forever cherished by her soul mate Duane and her spirit and love will live on through her children TeMana, Kenji, Terina, Duane Jr, Mani and Gennao.