Janeita Pokipoki has been practising with her group at the Red Cross headquarters.
A student at Tereora college, Pokipoki started dancing in the event aged 14, representing the island of Mangaia. The following year in 2017, she represented her home island Rakahanga; this year Tupapa Maraerenga is her district of choice.
“I’ve always loved dancing, like our culture and our traditions, the dancing and singing, the pe’e (chant) is my favourite as it makes me feel the vibe.”
The long nights rehearsing do not deter Pokipoki.
“I don’t mind the practice times, it’s normal, it can be difficult to get everyone together but our leaders manage to get us all together before the celebration,” she said. “It’s worth it and you have to be committed.”
Pokipoki was born in Brisbane, Australia, moving to Rarotonga in 2015 with her parents who are training to become Cook Islands Christian Church ministers.
She learnt the art of Cook Islands dancing in Brisbane and enjoyed participating in many cultural events.
However, she prefers the natural-fibred costumes created here. “They are so different, so natural using the traditional materials like kiriau, rauti, shells and the flowers.”
Dancers Charlene Akaruru, Eva Paitai and Timu Umurua all look forward to participating in the festival: “We enjoy reviving our culture and keeping it alive.”
Te Maeva Nui festival runs from Friday July 26 to Monday August 5 – the 54 Constitution Day ceremony.
The Pa Enua will not attend the festivities on Rarotonga, but will hold their cultural performances on their islands.