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From Italy to Mangaia

Monday April 16, 2018 Written by Published in Outer Islands
From Italy to Mangaia

In February this year, 18 members of the Heather family were in Mangaia to restore the gravesites of their Italian tupuna Iosepha Joseph Agostini and his wife Vaine Uaa.


More than 100 members of the family are preparing to travel to Mangaia in September for the unveiling of the two headstones.

Ahead of this event, Agostini descendant Sam Crocombe takes a look back at his illustrious ancestor and how he came to live on Mangaia in the Cook Islands.

Iosepha Joseph Agostini was born on May 10, 1788, on the Italian island of Capraia. His father was Joseph Agostini and his mother was Jeanne Colobani.

In later years, his parents moved to Bastia, Corsica, which is now a French territory. Like his father, Iosepha was a mariner and traded goods around the Mediterranean and the Pacific.

Young Iosepha married an Italian woman by the name of Marie Olivieri, also from Capraia, in 1822. His parents eventually passed away and then later his wife, leaving Iosepha alone without any issue.

This was the beginning of his journey to the wider South Pacific and its islands.

Landing on Mangaia in 1837 at the age of 49, Iosepha fell in love with the place and made the island his home, possibly due to similarities with his home island of Capraia in Italy.

At first he opened a trading shop in Kumukumu between Tavaenga and Ivirua. He made one of the natural caves beside the road his home and became good friends with Numangatini Ariki, the high chief of Mangaia.

Around about 1862, a Peruvian slave ship named The Impressor sailed into Mangaian waters and managed to kidnap five Mangaian youth, one of whom was the high chief Numangatini’s son Tavita.

Numangatini Ariki knew only one person who could help to bring these youth back, and that was his friend Iosepha Agostini.

As he was the only one around at the time who could write and speak English, Agostini offered his help.

With his experience from abroad, he knew what was happening in the slavery world. He wrote a letter to the English and French authorities explaining the situation of these abducted youths, requesting help to repatriate them to Mangaia.

With the support of the British and French governments, Agostini eventually ended up in Peru, where he set about protesting to abolish the slavery trade around the South Pacific. Successful in his mission, Agostini returned Tavita to his homeland of Mangaia.

After the return of Tavita to Mangaia, Numangatini Ariki was overjoyed and gifted a huge piece of land to Agostini in Vaitotara, where he became the first foreigner to farm cows on the island.

Later he was married to Uaa, the daughter of the Kavana of Keia Muraai Atatoa. They built a beautiful Italian-style home up in the makatea in Keia, and the Mangaians called this place Pari (Paris), as they thought he was a Frenchman.

Agostini and Uaa had two beautiful daughters, Louisa and Maria. Apparently Maria didn’t have any issue but Louisa married Isaia Papehia, the grandson of Tinomana Enua Rurutini Ariki and Tepori A Pa. They had five children, two boys and three girls – William, David, Catherine, Rangitai and Tepaeru.

Only one of those five produced a grandchild – Rangitai, who married a New Zealand Maori/Scottish man by the name of Stanley Heather, son of Mahanga and Uanaki of Ngati Mahanga, Waikato. The couple had one son, also called Stanley.

Young Stanley would go on to marry Teupoko Exham, daughter of Richard Exham, the first British Consul to the Cook Islands, and Matarii Tamatoa of Borabora.

Stanley and Teupoko had 15 children and that was the beginning of the Heather family in the Cook Islands.

Today Iosepha Joseph Agostini lies in the yard at Mangaia beside his wife Uaa. His headstone reads, ‘Joseph Agostini died 21 09 1873, A native of Corsica and lived in Mangaia for over 36 years’.

A big thank you to Carl Mautariki and Taokia of Mangaia for the information they have provided regarding this wonderful story. A big thank you also to Mama Marjorie Crocombe and Nari Crocombe for their input in the research of Iosepha J Agostini.

Not to forget, a special acknowledgement and meitaki maata to my good Italian friend Paulo Cattania Di Montarso and my French friend Guillaume Kapfer for assisting in the research that went as far as the islands of Capraia and Corsica in the Mediterranean.

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1 comment

  • Comment Link HRHM J ATA ARIKI-GLOVER Thursday, 20 February 2020 15:56 posted by HRHM J ATA ARIKI-GLOVER

    this history is absolutely wrong as louisa was born 1835 on her tomb stone and grandpa joseph agostini part italian corcican and chilean bought the takamoa institution for a mere $150 chillean dollars also written on the plaque outside the takamoa institution. your mistake was the tomb that you have taken a photo of should have never been removed as that was his STATUS in mangaia from 1841-1873 when he died. grandpa married to the daughter of our great grandpa HIGH CHIEF MURA'AI ATA ARIKI son of HIGH CHIEF ATA'TOA ATA ARIKI which is mura'ai's father and mother mariki .that name is on my brother mura'ai the first mura'ai to be named ever and folowed by metua'viv'toa jospeh ata glover married by herman his mother nancy ata glover who married john herman junior daughter of the first british aboriginal queen regent as she was the title holder for the ''KING'' of mangaia born 1886 and john trego born 1888 and nohoroa rangi born 1872 only 16 yrs of age when ATA ARIKI was put into the BRITISH PROTECTORATE cause the ''KING'' just died ORIGINAL as tonga claimed that right in 1875 under the PACIFIC PROTECTORATE ACT 1875. in 1889 the title ''KING'' was given to the KINGS daughter METUA'TANGI ATA KKAVANA under the 1889 ACT as ''KING'' returned by tonga and tonga remained as part of ATA KAVANA as KING but NOT KING ATA KAVANA of ATA OF MANAGAIA. the mistake that was made was you coming to mangaia and demolishing the tomb stone which was the highest STATUS ever held by a ACTING RULING CHIEFS which our grandpa joseph agostini. he married our grandma UAA ATA daughter of HIGH CHIEF MURA'AI ATA ARIKI and our grandpa his FIRST BORN HEIR to his throne HIGH CHIEF TURANGA'KINO and her daughter was the first SUPREME ATA KAVANA as KING first BRITISH MONARCH as QUEEN REGENT as women cannot sit on this CHRISTIAN THRONE as CHRISTIAN KING as KING HENRY V111 created this title as SUPREME GOVERNOR CHURCH OF ENGLAND. so me being BOTH ATA ARIKI & ATA KAVAVA as ''KING'' gave me the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to sit on BOTH CROWNS as HIGH CHIEF MURA'AI was the last KING 1840 and his eldest son became king after him and died 1888 and i was placed under the british protectorate and his first born daughter was our great grandma QUEEN REGENT METUA'TANGI ATA KAVANA as the title KING was given to her 1889 ACT. my grandpa was the first CHRISTIAN MONARCH OR KING not REGENT as he was the ORIGINAL BRITISH ''KING''. her mother was only 2 yrs old in 1888 and 3 yrs old 1889 not fit enough to GOVERN her BRITISH ABORIGINAL EMPIRE and it has been under the custodian ariki ever since and was never returned to us the ORIGINAL TITLE HOLDER OF BOTH THE BRITISH AND ABORIGINAL COMMONWEALTH CROWNS. i am in the process of entering the cook islands high court at the moment for this title which shouold be returned and RESTORED to it's ORIGINAL BRITISH ABORIGINAL COMMONWEALTH ''KING'' and i have enough proof to win this court case OUTRIGHT and shame to all those seeking to steal my ABSOLUTE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH SOVEREIGN RIGHT and shame to this CORRUPT COOK IS GOVT OF HENRY PUNA. i will seek damages in the high court for the shameful act this govt have done towards me and i will govern my own sovereign affairs and seek reparation of millions which they have no money to pay me out PERIOD UNDISPUTED

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