Cook Island performers return to Polynesian Cultural Center

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Members of the Cook Islands performing troupe: Junior Tapurau (front-center) is the cultural leader. PCC photos by Mike Foley


For the second consecutive year, the government of the Cook Islands has sent a performing group from its National Arts Theater and leaders to appear at the Polynesian Cultural Center through July 17, 2018.

“We’re so excited to have them back again this year,” said Delsa Atoa Moe, PCC Vice President of Cultural Presentations. “It’s like a family reunion because we know and love them. We know they’re not just going to be a boost to our program, but also to our employees.”


A family welcome

PCC director of the islands, Steve Laulu, and representatives from each of the Center’s villages — speaking in their respective languages — presented the Cook Islanders with a ho’okupu or Hawaiian presentation of gifts and food on June 18. “In every island we do this,” Laulu said. “We welcome family and friends especially when they’re gone for a long time.”


Polynesian Cultural Center villagers

Polynesian Cultural Center villagers present a Hawaiian ho’okupu or welcoming gift of food to the Cook Islanders on June 18, 2018.


Then PCC president and CEO Alfred Grace, a New Zealand Maori, officially welcomed the Cook Islanders. “We hope that in the next five weeks we’re all going to become one ‘ohana [family],” he said. “People still talk about your visit last year, how energizing and uplifting it was for all of the PCC people as well as our community. In some ways, there’s a lot of pressure on you, because you always want to be better than last time.”


‘Welcome back to your PCC home’

“Thank you for coming, and welcome back to your PCC home,” Grace said, as he acknowledged the group leaders and the Cook Islands government for helping arrange their 2018 appearance. “The fact that you’re back again recognizes how successful you were last year, and we have no doubt that you’ll be successful again this year in representing your home islands and people.”

He added that many of the Cook Islanders now living in and around Laie are also proud of the visiting group and are helping them during their stay.


Cook Islands group leader responds

“Thank you for your awesome welcome,” replied group leader Danny Mataroa, a hereditary Cook Islands Maori chief and a well-known entertainer in the South Pacific islands.

He explained that because of a recent “snap election” and changes in the Cook Islands government, which is concerned with curtailing spending, the group almost didn’t come this year. However, the government continues to pay the performers while they’re in Hawaii.

“But because it had already been discussed last year, we managed to come again for the future of the Cook Islands. We hope to establish our own PCC village someday and encourage our youth to come and further their education at BYU–Hawaii.”


More Cook Islands performers this year

Junior Tapurau, the group’s creative leader who has traveled worldwide promoting the Cook Islands, echoed the thought: “We’re excited to be back. In fact, I asked for extra dancers this year. We have three new boys, four new girls, and all the drummers are new. We are all honored and excited to be back here.”


Cook Islands women at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The young women of the Cook Islands performing group. Elizabeth Pita (upper right) says, “It’s good to be back.”


Elizabeth Pita, a recent college graduate and one of the returning dancers, agreed that “it’s good to be back. Working at the PCC is exciting, and we’re excited to bring along new faces.” She added that several of the dancers are national Dance Review winners.


Cook Islands national anthem and flag raising

Following the ho’okupu and speeches, the Cook Islanders sang their national anthem as they raised their flag near the temporary Cook Islands “showcase” located by the canoe landing between the Hawaiian and Tahitian Villages.


Cook Islanders at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Cook Islanders sing their national anthem and raise their flag at the Polynesian Cultural Center.


The Cook Islanders put on special performances at 1, 3 and 4 p.m. each day the Center is open. The performances are included with admission to the Center.



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Mike FoleyStory and photos by Mike Foley, who has been a full-time freelance writer and digital media specialist since 2002. Prior to that, he had a long career in marketing communications, PR, journalism and university education. The Polynesian Cultural Center has used his photos for promotional purposes since the early 1970s. Foley learned to speak fluent Samoan as a Mormon missionary before moving to Laie in 1967. He has traveled extensively over the years throughout Polynesia, other Pacific islands, and Asia. He is mostly retired but continues to contribute to PCC and various other media.


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