My mum told me this true story about her great grandfather. The message here is about passing down stories from one generation to another.
OCTOPUS ON A PANDANUS TREE
TE FUINGA O NIVA is a traditional name associated with Manihiki and its sister island Rakahanga. Manihiki is an atoll located in the north of the Cook Islands and is part of the Northern Group along with Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Nassau, Rakahanga and Suwarrow. Manihiki has a large lagoon with exposed coral heads that allow people to build houses on it. Manihiki is where the black oyster pearl farming takes place. It is also the birth place of my great grandfather, Papa Tuatai Tupou. He was born on 17th November 1931 and passed away on 11th April 2003. This story took place in 1997 on Tauhunu Village in Manihiki.
My great grandfather loved fishing at night. His favourite fishing spot was at Te uapu o Aporo (Aporo’s Wharf) in town on Tauhunu village. He loved eating fish every day. He was 66 years old. Living at home with my great grandfather were my Uncle Ruamano and my mother. Uncle Ruamano was about 10 years old, and he was raised by my great grandfather, since he was born. My mother was 20 years old and she was the only female in the household. She had many roles to fulfill. My mother was a carer who was looking after my great grandfather because he was sick. She was a shopkeeper who supported the family business owned by Papa Tuatai by looking after the shop every evening; and she also had a full time job working as a Fisheries Officer at the Ministry of Marine Resources.
It was during the cold winter months, my mother and uncle joined Papa Tuatai on one of his fishing trips down at the wharf. They each had a fishing rod. Papa Tuatai used the shell of the black pearl oyster as a lure to catch the fish because it was shiny. He wore a bag made out of a sack and rope to help carry the fish they caught.
When they left home it was a clear cool night with a full moon. The lagoon was calm and there was a slight breeze. The air was filled with the sweet scent of hinano flowers from the pandanus trees growing along the shores near the lagoon. Just as they approached Aporo’s Wharf next to my mother’s work place, Papa Tutai suddenly said, “Imi te feke!” (Look the octopus!).
My mother was scared, she ducked down and said, “Where?” Papa Tuatai pointed up at the pandanus tree. Against the shadow of the pandanus leaves with the full moon shining in the background, my mother saw a blob-like shape of an octopus slowly crawling up the pandanus tree towards the ripe pandanus fruits called ‘fara’ (ara).
Papa Tuatai told my mother that the octopus can sense the sweet smell of the hinano flowers because that is when the fruits are ripe. The octopus loves to eat the ripe, sweet and juicy pandanus fruits. When the octopus can sense people approaching, they jump straight back into the sea. Also, early in the morning around dawn, a lot of splashing in the sea can be heard.
A lot of octopus were seen jumping from the pandanus tree back into the sea because they were full from dining on fara all night. If one was really quiet, you could hear the octopus quietly crunching and munching away on the juicy sweet fara. So a lot of fishermen catch the octopus on land because it is easier than in the sea. Sometimes the seawall at Aporo’s Wharf is crawling with octopus, enough to feed the entire village.
So when the hinano flowers are blooming during winter on a full moon night, everyone on the island knows that it is octopus season. This was one event and the best fishing trip that my mother will remember for the rest of her life.
Also, 1997 was the same year that Cyclone Martin destroyed Manihiki, where many houses were demolished and many lives were lost. My mother was safe on Rarotonga, but my Papa Tuatai and Uncle Ruamano were still in Manihiki. They survived the cyclone.
My shape represents my island Rarotonga, like the fifteen stars/islands. I chose it because I am from Rarotonga. My patterns represent things I see and like to do and they also represent my family. The flower in my shape represents my mum, dad, sister and I, and the wave pattern represents my favourite thing to do which is swimming. The triangles represent my whole family and the long sharp thing pattern represents the birds because I always see them flying in the sky. Then the last patterns are diamonds they represent my friends.