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Rarotonga, Host of the 6th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published on October 10, 1868.

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

This week’s post honors the Cook Islands which, in 1992, became the 6th nation to host the Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture. This festival was held in Rarotonga and celebrated the ocean-voyaging heritage of Oceania. FestPAC is the world’s largest celebration of Indigenous Pacific Islanders, bringing together artists, cultural practitioners, scholars, and officials from member nations of the Pacific Community (SPC).

This traveling festival is held every four years and was first launched by the South Pacific Commission in 1972 to halt the erosion of traditional practices through ongoing cultural exchange. In June of 2024, Hawaiʻi will host the 13th festival on Oʻahu.

Over the coming months, we will honor each of the previous FestPAC hosts with posts featuring those island nations and their connections to Hawaiʻi’s own history.

In Maui’s local news section of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa in 1868, G.M. Keone of Wailuku wrote about a student of “Aubert” who was teaching Hawaiian students with a Rarotongan Bible. This was Father Aubert Bouillon who founded Maria Lanakila Church, which recently circulated in the news during the 2023 Lahaina fires for remaining miraculously untouched by the destruction, standing tall in the midst of the ashes. Utilizing a Rarotongan Bible to teach Hawaiian students was not entirely unusual considering that the two languages have some of the most similarities within the Polynesian languages.

The word “Rarotonga” in the Hawaiian language is one of several that come through loan from Tahitian language. It is trans-literated from the Tahitian by replacing the “R” with “L,” and the “ng” with an ʻokina. Thus, resulting with the word Lalotoʻa, or Lalokoʻa.1 It is very common in languages, even Hawaiian, that words are borrowed and trans-literated from other languages. While most recognize the English-turned Hawaiian words, many other words in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi derive from other languages such as Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, and other global languages beyond Oceania.

1See Elbert & Pukui’s Hawaiian Grammar: 2.9.4

Image: Village scene in Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, pre-1900s. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 222674

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact

Image: “Nu hou! Nu hou!!” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, October 10, 1868, p. 2.

News! News!! — G. M. Keone [George Makaimoku Keonehaliiokalani] of Wailuku is writes in about something new he has seen, that being the coming of a student of Aubert there to recruit students, with his necklace wrapped around his adam’s apple, with an image suspended. The book that he is using to teach his students is a Rarotongan Bible that was translated from another language, it is perhaps the books of Apodelupe. They are deceived by those people that they are the desired ones. He quickly said to go to Lahaina to see this new Word. Perhaps it is because of your lack of Hawaiian language that he teaches in that Rarotongan language. You will find out.

Image: Rarotongan women; Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Photo by W. Rorell Reynolds. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 96106

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact 

Image: Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact

Image: Making mats in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 103943

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact 

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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