Purely by chance, we ended up in Rarotonga when they were celebrating their Constitution Day, 4th August 1965. This is a big deal for the Cook Islands, and Islanders from all over the Cook Islands come across to Avarua in Rarotonga to celebrate the diversity of the islands and showcase their culture.
The Cook Islands include 15 islands scattered across the South Pacific over a vast area and when you see just how vast, it cover 1,800,000 square kilometres of ocean, and shows what a tribute this was to the early Cook Islanders who set off across the ocean to see what they could find.
Some of the islands benefit from tourism, such as Aitutaki, Rarotonga, and others like Manihiki benefit from black pearl farming. Some are nature reserves with only 2 caretakers, others are very difficult to get to for tourists, and even Rarotonga gives the impression of being relatively unspoilt so there is a huge amount of variety in each of the islands.
I had assumed that colonialism probably brought with it a lot of negative things that we tend to associate with Empire, one of which would have been concepts of land ownership, and you would suspect given what has happened elsewhere with Empires, the principle of land ownership being followed very closely with the principle of swindling original settlers out of it with beads and blankets, apparently one of the things that came out of this colonialism was a concept of indigenous land ownership from mountain to sea - so when they were allocating land to various tribes, sections were divided up this way. This would mean that the islanders could own the very desirable beachfront properties all around the lagoons.
I am not 100% certain this is absolutely accurate, I learnt all this from a very friendly Kiwi couple who initially mistook me for the Official Photographer of the Parade, and ended up telling me I'd be very welcome as an HR Manager in New Zealand and even suggesting the jobs website I should check out.
So the Parade was a little casual, shall we say, and I have subsequently found out that we were some way down from all of the action. I think the first sign was the arrival of the first float, this one.
which as you can see, is Float No 4. This was followed after some time by Float No 11, then 21, and the order of appearance gave some clue to how the Parade was going to go. It took quite a long time and to be charitable something like this is fairly difficult to co-ordinate (and it should be noted that this is just one of the activities that mark the Declaration of Independence..
Anybody who has read my blog previously will realise I am usually fairly reluctant to photograph people, something that many amateur photographers have in common, and looking through the following pictures you may get the impression I've been able to overcome this - however, in practice I shot these with a very long lens and initially thought they were pretty disappointing and cluttered, then I started realising that I could crop other people out of them and some of them ended up being quite interesting portraits.
That said, these are really easygoing people. If you can't take a photograph of someone who's that friendly, who can you photograph?
Later on, I'll look at some of the other aspects of Rarotonga, the night sky, some of the beaches and the lagoon, even the slightly spooky interior and the definitely creepy abandoned Sheraton Hotel Complex that's a story in itself...
But for now - Constitution Day!