Peta Tautu is of Cook Island descent, specifically from the remote and northern-most island on Penrhyn, known traditionally as Tongareva.
She speaks her Cook Islander language fluently and comes from a family of singers. Her musical gifts were and are still honed in church and worship services. She also lends her talents to local bands and groups delivering to audiences a range of contemporary secular genres.
Her friendly and inviting personality connects her with audiences. As well, her broad smile and obvious love of music and dancing make her an engaging performer. She has the ability to take a tune and make it her own, never shying away from improvising. Peta Tautu takes any and every opportunity to share her love of her culture and her music.
The largest coral atoll in the many scattered islands of the Cook Islands is at Penrhyn Island. It is also the most remote community in the archipelago. It lies over a thousand kilometres (eight hundred miles) northeast of the largest island, Rarotonga. Penrhyn’s lagoon covers two hundred square kilometres but its land area covers only nine square kilometres and the highest elevation is less than five metres.
Historically, the island was known as Tongareva and was originally settled by migrating Polynesians. In 1788 at the time of early European contact, it was names after the British ship Lady Penrhyn, which had been part of the First Fleet transporting convicts to Australia from Britain. The ship had originally been built for the trans-Atlantic African slave trade. Tragically, the people of Penrhyn became victims of another slave trade in the years 1862-1864: that of Polynesian peoples enslaved and transported to South America, an experience few survived either from overwork, diseases or brutality.
Penrhyn Island’s resident population has been declining and its current population is approximately two hundred people. Many others have migrated to other islands in the Cook Island archipelago or to New Zealand and Australia. It is also susceptible to extreme weather events and in 2010 Cyclone Pat destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure. Nonetheless, the people of Penrhyn retain an abiding connection to their very remote yet unique island home.