18 Oct 2019

Te Maeva Nui opens in NZ for first time

4:44 pm on 18 October 2019

The Cook Islands' biggest cultural festival has come to New Zealand for the first time since its inception more than 50 years ago.

Te Maeva Nui is a showcase of Cook Islands' songs and dances.

Te Maeva Nui is a showcase of Cook Islands' songs and dances. Photo: Te Maeva Nui/Facebook

The Te Maeva Nui was opened by Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna in Auckland on Thursday.

Festival director Tutereva Wichman-Evans said having more than 60,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand prompted organisers to bring the iconic event to Aotearoa.

The three-day festival sees the islanders come together to celebrate their culture and language through songs and dances.

Ms Wichman-Evans said the festival also benefited young Cook Islanders.

"I see kids off the streets because they've got a focus, they're learning their culture. They're learning their language.

"They live here but they know that they're Cook Islanders and that they have their identity."

Cook Islanders celebrate Te Maeva Nui.

Cook Islanders celebrate Te Maeva Nui. Photo: Te Maeva Nui/Facebook

Another festival director, Duane Evans, said Te Maeva Nui was huge in the Cook Islands with celebrations held over a week.

There were about 10,000 people living in the Cook Islands and "everyone comes from the outer islands to participate in the festival".

"Te Maeva Nui celebrates the leaders, chiefs, kings and queens who led their kopu tangata to the lands we call home," he said.

"Their legendary stories are retold through our most common of mediums - our culture.

"Using the language of our forefathers, Cook Islanders in New Zealand present the epic tales of their Ariki."

Eight groups are performing - each with more than 100 people and they include not just Cook Islanders.

Mr Evans said there were Samoans, Tongans, Tahitians and Hawaiians among the dance groups.