Pacific | Fashion

Fashion show reconnects NZ-born Cook Islanders to their heritage

Aku Yanga is a Cook Islands fashion show that aims to reconnect New Zealand-raised Cook Islanders with their heritage through art, music, and fashion.

The event coincides with Cook Islands Language Week, which kicked off yesterday and for young 23-year-old designer Destiny Kiria who was raised in Auckland, it’s an opportunity to be immersed in Cook Island culture.

“It’s something new for me, out of my comfort zone but it’s a way for me to show what I can create as a Cook Islands person,” she says.

According to a 2018 census by more than 45,000 Cook Islanders live in Auckland alone, with only 20,000 in all the Cook Islands.

Founding director Paul Hagai and creative producer Moeroa Masters are both studying for their master’s degree in applied indigenous studies with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and are incorporating Aku Yanga in their research.

“My kaupapa is based around the saying ‘kia mau te Selenga’,” says Masters.

“This means connecting Cook Islanders to their identity through song. Aku Yanga provides a platform where we can observe and collect data but also share songs and think about what it means to connect.”

The show starts this Friday at Freemans Bay Community Hall.