I am Manarangi Tutai Ariki O Vaipaepae O Pau
Paramount Chief of Vaipae Oire
I was born on 25 March 1946, just after the end of World War II, into a little island world that was still lived largely within the framework of our own historical cultural traditions My father was a small man, but wiry and strong. He was a true Polynesian, a planter of many varieties of food and cash crops, and good with all kinds of animals. Although he was all of these things, he excelled in fishing, and was a fine sailor. He also built beautiful sailing canoes. I have an older brother and an older sister — I was the youngest in the family – and I was Papa’s favourite. Sometimes we lived in our big coral lime house in Tautu village, but I liked it best when we moved to our Coconut thatched house deep in the forest of Taravao, where my Papa and our small family collected coconuts and made Copra. Even though I was only a small girl, when I was there in our hidden forest world I could feel the mysterious and powerful forces of nature moving through this green and watery canopy of life.
On Saturdays Papa would go fishing in his big tamanu wood outrigger sailing canoe, and if the weather was not too rough, he would take me along for company, and to teach me how to fish and the ways of the sea. To a small girl, his canoe seemed huge — it must have been 30 feet long. At the Tautu harbour he would roll her into the water, set the sails, and away we would go. That canoe was fast. I can still see the mighty cotton sail billowing out as it caught the wind, and the hiss of the water foaming at the prow. Papa was expert at this — I would sit on my little padded seat in the canoe and marvel at his skill. He would balance so that the outrigger would just skim the lagoon surface — and our canoe would fly. My vivid memories are of the whiteness of the sail, set against the bright azure blue of the sky, and the beautiful turquoise shades of the lagoon, with the wind singing in the sheets. Such is the fabric of my memories. Pearls woven on the silver strands of childhood.
Once at the fishing grounds, Papa would anchor the canoe, and set about catching some fish. He would give me a handline , some hooks and bait, and sitting there, with my wide brimmed pandanus hat to shield me against the sun, I would while away the hours until Papa returned with his long string of fish — caught with his big spear on the outer barrier reef. In later years I was to see and marvel at how good he was with a hand spear — sometimes throwing it —javelin like- to impale the huge green parrot fish in the barrier reef channels — but that is another story. Then we would return homeward with our catch — his long string of huge blue parrot fish and silver grey Trevalli, and my much smaller one of rock cod and snapper.
A very wise man once wrote — “Not only do you have to live your own life — you also have to live the life of your times….” This is very true, and since the arrival of the gospel to Aitutaki in 1821, brought by John Williams and Papeiha on the ship “Messenger of Peace”, the ancient world of Polynesia has been eroded, until today we see only a faint whisper of what it once was. I now, along with all my people, must try to survive in the modern technological world which has been imposed upon us by nearly 200 years of Westernization.
I was educated at Araura Primary School, and then at the Cook Islands Teachers Training College, where I became qualified as a primary school teacher. I taught in Rarotonga and Pukapuka.
I lived and worked in New Zealand for 3 separate periods between 1966 and 1973. I married my husband, Desmond in 1969; we returned to the Cook Islands in 1973, lived for a few years in Rarotonga and returned to live in Aitutaki in 1976. I have lived here continuously since. My husband and I managed the CITC branch store in Aitutaki for 22 years until it was sold. Since that time (1998) we have had a small accommodation business – Gina’s Garden Lodges
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