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Celebrating creative talent

Saturday July 25, 2015 Written by Jaewynn McKay Published in Culture
Peka Takai George’s outstanding costume took second place in the Men’s Natural Section. Peka Takai George’s outstanding costume took second place in the Men’s Natural Section.

The inaugural Rakei Manava competition held at the Edgwater on Wednesday this week showcased the incredible talents of some of the Cook Islands’ top costume designers.

Judges chose seven designers as the prize winners, who shared a generous $25,000 in cash prizes sponsored by CITC. The event has been widely praised, with suggestions that it become an annual fixture on the Te Maeva Nui programme.

Jaewynn McKay profiles the inaugural event’s winning designers:

Larry Tumai - Tino Vaine Ariki Ura

From a family of 13, Larry comes from Mangaia but now lives in Rarotonga and will be known to many as the voice and face of Vonnia’s.

Passionate about his culture, dance costumes and language Larry would like to see more of our local products recognised worldwide.

His vision is to share his knowledge with our young Cook Islanders and to ensure that our Cook Islands culture and identity lives on. 

The main components in his garments are tapa, coconut fibres and shells.

“My costume shows the respect I have for my people. The arrangement of the shells features our 15 beautiful islands. Overall, my costume reflects the mana our warriors on the battle field. My costumes represent my ancestral journey.”

Peka Takai George

Peka Takai George, has won Cook Islands Champion Dancer a number of times and for many years has been a member of the Te Ivi Maori Dance Troupe. She was also a Te Maeva Nui Judge for many years.

Her costume was called Maui Potiki - it was Maui Potiki who stepped on Avaiki and separated first Tongareva, then Manihiki, and finally Tapuahua (Rakahanga)

The components of Peka’s costume came from the three islands in the northern Cook Islands including the lagoon and the coconut tree. Rito and white tungangi shells from Rakahanga; black and gold parau and black pearls from Manihiki; pipi and rauara from Penryhn.

The band and the skirt and the riri vaevae are the ocean that surrounds the three islands, and the blessings they receive from the sea and the land.

John Taulu 

John’s costume was influenced by the images we have of the gladiators of Rome and the Spartans of Greece.

The red trim is evocative of the deep red sunsets in Vaka Puaikura, the village of the setting sun. The costume combines kiriau, pearl shells, kikau, rauara, kaka and patapuka seeds. The pearl shell remind John of his blood links to Manihiki and the distinct black pearls found in that island’s lagoon.

Dancing has been a lifelong passion for John. As a young boy he copied the older dancers until his day came to take centre stage. This is the sixth year John has participated in Te Maeva Nui and he dances for Vaka Puaikura. 

Mama Tuaputa

Metuavaine Makiiti (also known as ‘Mama’) was the youngest of 14 children in their homestead at Tamarua, Mangaia Island. Her father was a master carver and her mother a master weaver and tivaevae maker, so she was destined to be creative and talented.

Mama has always been good with her hands. With a wild imagination she began her journey of weaving of coconut products and pandanus or rau’ara at a young age. She also developed a keen interest in costume design – in its truest sense. 

Mama, married to James Tuaputa of Arorangi, regularly got their children to dance in different raw materials so she could understand how the raw material moved when worn. From observing them she was able to work out how the weight of raw material affects the ability of dancers to move with various costume designs.  

Mama spent 12 years as chief costume designer and maker for the award-winning Cook Islands Cultural Village and later joined the Akirata dance troupe as chief costume designer.

Regina Potini

From Aitutaki, Regina is a freelance professional wedding photographer.

The key components used in her costume were kiriau, poepoe, patapuka, rito, kaka niu, Rauara. The flowers are made from a kiriau akauka, cooked to maintain a rich natural colour. The rauara was also cooked and sun dried. 

There are 50 flowers representing the 50th anniversary celebration. 

“I am dedicating my costume to the 50th anniversary celebration and also to my people of the Kuki Airani”. 

Ana Savage <check if this costume the one not to be shown>

“There is a saying in our home: “Maroiroi koe i tena angaanga e ura, maroiroi rai koe it e rave i toou rakei”..... “If you are keen to go dancing, be prepared to make your own costume” and of course I had no choice but to design and prepare my own costumes during primary and secondary school days.”

Ana helped her children to prepare and design their costumes from when they were very young. In 2008 her daughter entered the Dancer of the Year competition and her costume won the best costume award.

“I have designed and won many costume awards since then including the Mauke Enua and Nukutere College girl’s costume.

“These events have been challenging as the designs have had to be more creative but hey, there is a lot of fun in designing, despite the sleepless nights”.

Ana’s costume was based on the ocean that separates the beautiful 15 islands of the Cook Islands.

She used kiriau,shells, ua tamanu, poepoe, feathers that are kept natural or coloured to beautify and depict the ocean.

The colours blue, green and white used in this costume reflect the ocean and its natural beauty. From blistering winds to rough seas, it indicates the mood of the ocean.  

The contents used in this costume were kept natural or coloured and covered, sharing the same shimmer of colours as the ocean

Esther Tangirere

Esther learned to make costumes by helping out with many of her friends with dance costumes for Dancer of the Year. Here she learned the basics of what you need and how to put the elements together to make a complete costume.

Originally used to making costumes out of fresh materials like rauti and flowers this competition has given Esther the chance to try out a full costume, coming up with an idea and trying to bring it to life.

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