HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 650: 23 January 2013

The ties that bind

A Cook Islander is drawn back by ties to family, emotions, Polynesia

Well known musician, Karl Kippenberger who is of Mangaian, Atiuan and Rarotongan descent on his mother’s side, has been in the Cook Islands on holiday for the past two weeks.
The Herald caught up with him at the Ministry of Cultural Development on Thursday morning where he was meeting with Mahiriki Tangaroa and Liz Ponga.
It was a relaxed morning, talking over coffee and caramel biscuits, about his latest experiences.
Karl was last here five years ago in 2007 and before that, in 2005. Each trip has become a process of re-emersion for Karl. On this trip he has done the Needle crossing, sampled the new fare at the Market and added more to his collection of family history especially from the Second World War.
The changes in Rarotonga have pleasantly surprised him especially the variety of dining out menus and incorporation of herbs in local cooking. Cooking is something he has a great interest in and on Wednesday night he cooked up a dinner of Tuna.
He sought out a meeting with Tangaroa because on his last holiday in 2007 he was at the Café and saw a painting she had done across three panels (a triptych). It struck a nerve with him because it was a “dark” painting and it drew on him emotionally. He wanted to purchase the $700 work but did not and has regretted it ever since. On this trip he wants to see more of Tangaroa’s work.
He also visited Aitutaki.
Karl has put much effort into reconnecting with family but he has not ignored the German side of his family. He recently visited his extended family in Germany and speaks very highly of them. His Grandfather acting on behalf of the NZ government was here in the 1970s to negotiate with traditional leaders and advise our government on the construction of the international airport.
Karl has achieved widespread international attention as he is the bass guitarist for the very popular NZ Rock Band called Shihad, which Karl has been associated with since he left school in Wellington as an 18 year old, has played in venues around the world.
Karl along with the band, is based in Melbourne, Australia but travels widely. Next year in May, the band will be recording in Egypt and then Spain. And that comes after a concert in Melbourne in December and an end of year tour in New Zealand starting on Boxing Day. Karl says recording in foreign countries takes the band out of its comfort zone and exposes it to a different cultures and stimuli. It is both refreshing and educational and at times can be inspirational.
Karl also does the graphic designs for the band’s albums and DVD covers.
Liz Ponga says Cook Islanders like Karl who have achieved significant milestones are role models to younger Cook Islanders.
Karl intends to be back early next year and to visit Mangaia.
Like many other Cook Islanders Karl would like to see more Cook Islanders come home. In the fifties and sixties Cook Islanders left to work in NZ factories, freezing works and wharves. They fell into a “rut.” As a people, Cook Islanders could not adapt when the transition came to new technologies and many became unemployed. These days, the departures are for different reasons. However, Polynesians are travelers and the desire to go out and see what’s out there in the wider world, is strong. In NZ Cook Islanders are still in a rut and the only way out is by becoming a united force however Cook Islanders are too fragmented into home island groups. By contrast, the Samoans are leaving the “rut” because as a group they became strong, focused and committed. Samoan parents who once worked in factories, pressured their children to aim higher and now Samoans have excelled academically and in sports.
Karl is also interested in the idea of the band performing at our 50th anniversary of self government in 2015. His band once performed with UB40 in NZ and it was UB40 which was the main attraction at the Samoan celebrations for 50 years of Independence recently.
The band
Shihad which was formed in 1988 in Wellington NZ, is an alternative rock band, currently based in Melbourne, Australia. During Shihad’s recording career, they have produced four number-one studio albums and three top-ten singles in New Zealand. At the 2010 New Zealand Music Awards Shihad won the Legacy Award, and were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. The band had a movie come out earlier this year called Shihad – Beautiful Machine.

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