Oceania boasts a wide range of vibrant cultures with unique traditions and values. Recently, this was highlighted by Emanuela Mataio (a badminton player from the Cook Islands) who underwent a haircutting ceremony – a rite of passage for young boys which takes place in front of friends and family.
“Boys growing their hair is an island tradition and a sense of pride for their parents. The haircutting is a symbol of coming of age for young boys where the boys hair is divided into separate locks for the families to cut a lock each. The boy is also presented with gifts mainly cash to help with his journey into manhood”, says Badminton Cook Islands President, Thomas Mereana-Ngauru.
Having played badminton for the majority of his teenage years, Emanuela has witnessed the significant growth of Badminton Cook Islands which has seen the sport boom across the country over the past five years. From Shuttle Time to Player Development, hosting National Championships and more, Emanuela has benefitted from all of these avenues. Currently, he is the reigning Cook Island National Champion in the Open and Under-19 men’s singles and had his first taste of international competition at the VICTOR Oceania Junior Championships 2019.
This year, he will continue his journey with Badminton Cook Islands as they make their debut in the Open competition of the Continental Championships – the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2023. With badminton playing an integral role in his personal identity, the haircutting ceremony fell at an appropriate time, symbolic of his journey into the Open era. Over 200 people attended his haircutting ceremony, many of which are also heavily involved in badminton.
“At the ceremony, there were blue and yellow balloons, ribbons attached to my hair, and traditional sheets which are called ‘Tivaevae’ or ‘Pareu’ surrounding me. People at the ceremony such as the badminton girls were so excited when my hair was cut because every time I travel for a badminton tournament, they always brush my hair every morning before we head to our game”, says Emanuela.
“Badminton plays a huge part in my identity because I really love the sport. Other players also attended the ceremony as it represents a huge part of me, being the singles champion and playing for my country”, he continues.
The ceremony recounts a journey of family, friendship, patriotism and is an important part of Emanuela’s self-expression.
“The ceremony was essential to myself, my mum and people around me. Firstly, my mum is the main person concerned with my long hair. She took care of my hair since I was born, she was the source of my hair, she would brush it three times a day but then once I start growing a lot taller, she now has to start brushing it while standing. I often hear people talking about my hair such as my family members or friends. They say things like ‘When are you cutting your hair’ or ‘Your hair is so long, bet you can’t wait to cut your hair so you look like a boy’. This is significant and important to me because I haven’t played badminton with short hair”, says Emanuela.
The ceremony has instilled new hope and confidence in Emanuela as he transitions from the Junior (Under-19) to Open competition in 2023 – a personal and team achievement.
“I feel better because my new haircut makes me feel lighter and more prepared to play and win. I am excited to show off my new look and skills on the court”
“I am looking forward to competing against more experienced and skilled players. I am also excited and hoping my new haircut brings me good luck on the court. I am determined to give it my all and represent my country to the best of my abilities. Additionally, I am looking forward to learning from my opponents and using the experience to improve my own game”, says Emanuela.
The VICTOR Oceania Championships 2023 take place at Badminton North Harbour from Friday 10 – Sunday 19 February 2023, starting with the Junior Mixed Team (10-12), followed by the Open and Junior Individuals (13-16) and Open Mixed Team (17-19) tournaments.
All action on courts one and two will be available to watch for free on the live stream, via Badminton Oceania’s YouTube Channel. Subscribe and set reminders to watch now.