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Te Ipukarea Society: Young people throw spotlight on Cook Islands’ ‘boys club’ politics

Saturday February 15, 2020 Written by Published in Environment
Teherenui Koteka (seated in front) with the cast of Mana Vaine. Photo: Tabby Berg (Creators Hype)/ 20021439 Teherenui Koteka (seated in front) with the cast of Mana Vaine. Photo: Tabby Berg (Creators Hype)/ 20021439

Last Friday night at the Rehab bar, the public of Rarotonga was treated to a rare night of satirical comedy theatre. 


The play, Mana Vaine, was written and directed by Teherenui Wright Koteka, and the cast was selected from current and past students from the Tereora College media course.

Tehere says that her play was a chance for her to bring a “new form of expression to her homeland” and to show young aspiring artists that they can build careers in the arts – something she never saw when she was growing up here.  

Also, she wanted to create a production that would “generate conversation around the Seabed Minerals Bill 2019”, a bill that she believes was prematurely passed.

Te Ipukarea Society organised a youth debate on the topic of Deep Sea Mining back in October 2013. 

Participants were required to debate both sides of the argument, for or against seabed mining in the Cook Islands.

Guess who won first prize in that competition? Yes, it was Tehere – proving herself even back then, as someone to pay attention to.

This performance chose to bring attention to a flawed process followed in the recent passing of the Seabed Mining Bill into legislation, and in doing so also threw a spotlight on how important are decisions that are made by Government that affect us all.

In particular, it brought attention to how these decisions are made by “the boys club” of Cook Islands politics and senior public servants. It also highlighted the vital role of women in decision making in our society.

The play certainly had an impact, as it attracted a diverse group of patrons of all ages and backgrounds, including a few who had never been to Rehab before!  There have also been a lot of positive posts about the play on Facebook, as well as letters to the editor, praising the talent and audacity of the production. While some of the language used would not make it past the chief censor for television screening, it certainly got the message across to the audience!

The characters in the play were entirely fictitious. In saying that, two of them, Benry Tuna and The Dark Clown, did display characteristics reminiscent of certain prominent members of government.

The play itself, however, was an obvious dig at the way political decisions are made in the Cook Islands, and it was unfortunate that no politicians were visible in the audience. Several studies have highlighted the health benefits of being able to laugh at yourself, and perhaps some individuals may have missed a golden opportunity here to improve their well-being!

Mana Vaine is a powerful satire with a message that needs to be shared widely.  With a bit of a clean-up of the language and some toning down of the more explicit scenes, it would make for a compelling local television production and a thought-provoking comedy if performed for our senior high school students.

Thank you for your creative and courageous energy Tehere, and well done to the impressive cast and crew.

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