13 September 2010

Fight club - Marquesan weapons

Marquesan club in the museum. Provenance 1970s: possibly gift by visiting dignitary from French Polynesia.

The evidence of Marquesan creative vigour of the past is matched by evidence of vigorous destructive behaviour. Warriors were fierce, their weapons cruel. Tribal warfare was the norm.
There were several types of Marquesan war clubs. The type called u’u (pictured) was the exclusive property of the warrior caste, a group of men who also acted as paid mercenaries for allied chiefdoms.
The clubs are huge in comparison to those in the rest of the Pacific. They are said to have been individually tailored to reach from the ground to the owner’s armpit. Tufts of white human beard hair and black human hair at times adorned the grips of such weapons.

04 September 2010

Freezing times in Rarotonga

Sally Voss at the library with artefacts ready to be frozen.
Two or three times a year CILAMS conducts a programme of freezing to get rid of pests that have taken up residence in our books and small artifacts using a freezer specially bought for the purpose.
Freezing is a non-chemical, non-toxic, and effective pest eradication method which is widely used in the international museum community, but high electricity costs here in the Cook Islands makes it an expensive task so only those items that are visibly affected are treated.
We use an inexpensive household freezer since the required temperature level is –20 degrees Celsius (-5F). The items are tightly wrapped in two layers of polyethylene plastic and sealed with plastic carton sealing tape. (CILAMS uses the Conservation Management guide drawn up by the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery, Australia, as its guide for preservation.)
We alternately freeze our infested objects and then warm them to room temperature - hey presto – no more bugs! It’s a non-chemical method to zap insects without a health hazard.
Unfortunately, some of our larger artifacts won’t fit in a household freezer and we don’t have the budget – or the space – for a walk-in freezer but luckily CITC allows us to use some of the space in its commercial walk-in freezers.
Recently Mr Trevor Clarke, director of CITC supermarkets, arranged for space to be made available in one of his walk-in freezers, so that some of our large items can be debugged for two weeks.
CITC staff helped wrap and transport the items both from our museum and the nearby National Museum.
This is the second time CITC has come to our assistance with their freezers and we thank CITC and Mr Clarke for their help in this programme of preservation of our national heritage.
CITC staff ready to carry the artefacts into the freezers.

27 August 2010

The tiki and Marquesan art

Above: Modern tiki figures in the Marquesas

The ancient Marquesans were ardent warriors, practiced cannibalism, and emphasised tattooing.
The remnants of Marquesan culture which have survived feature stylised designs worked in wood, shell, bone and stone. Bark cloth, turtle shell, feathers and human hair, as well as dolphin and whale teeth, were also used in the manufacture of objects of great aesthetic appeal.
Of the five archipelagos of French Polynesia, the art of the Marquesans is unquestionably one that developed to a high level of refinement and originality, making it instantly recognisable anywhere. Marquesan art is characterised by the recurrent theme of the tiki, stylised animal figures and intricately interweaving patterns.
While in the Marquesas we were continually struck by the similarities between Marquesan art and Cook Islands art.
The tiki figure closely resembles the representations of the human form in the Cook Islands – flexed legs, hands held to a rounded stomach, and the large head set low on the shoulders giving the impression of quiet strength. However, the eyes of Marquesan tiki are more rounded, almost circular, and the nose is given broad nostrils. The eyes, in some cases, are enlarged to cover more than half the face and a wide mouth is formed by concentric ovals.
Tiki means man or human image but is also the name given to carved images representing gods. Large male tiki were used on me’ae, or outdoor temples, as representations of deified beings.
CILAMS has a tiki in its collection (its age and island of origin in the Marquesas is not known). A visiting dignitary from French Polynesia likely gave it as a gift, along with two other Marquesan items which are also in CILAMS’s collection. Also pictured (right) is a tiki from Hakahau, Ua Pou, carved by Piri Gilmore (2010).

21 August 2010

Symposium and Festschrift in Rarotonga

Things have been hectic in Rarotonga recently, firstly with the Pacific Arts Association symposium and then the festschrift for Ron Crocombe.
The PAA symposium was held at the Crown Beach Resort and was very much enjoyed by those who attended. The weather was great, particularly for the craft demonstration day when a number of whales cruised along the reef to add to the occasion.
See Cook Islands News for stories about the symposium.
Many of the visiting museum curators and librarians called in to the library and museum and while somewhat dismayed by the conditions we work under, they had plenty of advice which we’ve already started acting on.
The festschrift for the late Ron Crocombe, our former patron and a long-time supporter of CILAMS, was a great success.
A festschrift is a volume of learned articles by different authors serving as a tribute, or in this case a memorial, to a respected academic.
Papa Ron was much loved as well as respected and a number of distinguished speakers made the journey to Rarotonga to honour his memory. See Cook Islands News for stories about the festschrift.
Now that all the excitement is over we should have time to update the blog again.
More next time…

02 August 2010

The Marquesas - Henua Enana (Land of Men)

Hakahau Bay, Ua Pou, Marquesas Islands
The Marquesas are a chain of ten large mountainous islands and some islets in east-central Polynesia. Mendana, who discovered the southern Marquesas in 1595, named them Las Islas de Marquesas de Mendoza, after the wife of the Viceroy of Peru. France has maintained political control since 1832.
Two CILAMS’ council members have just returned from an excursion through the six inhabited islands of the Marquesas. With the memory of the visit still fresh in their minds, it seems an apt moment to reflect on this group of islands, which has many cultural and historical links with the Cook Islands. In a later blog, we will discuss the few Marquesan pieces in our museum collection.
Not only do we share linguistic similarities (particularly Rarotongan), there are also a number of ancient legends and chants in some of the islands of the Cook group, which refer to ’Iva (Marquesas) and the eastern direction (‘itinga ra’, towards the sunrise), as the place from which our ancestors came to settle these islands.
Ancient connections to the Cook Islands
There are a number of legends about Rarotonga, which concern visits by people from ’Iva. Tangaroa and Aumake came from ’Iva for a visit around 450 AD. Aumake chopped the hill overlooking Arorangi, Raemaru, in half. Later, a man called Ngare and a woman called Toko also came from ’Iva – Ngare gave his name to a stream in Arorangi, Vai-o-ngare. Toko named the passage through the reef at Arorangi, Vaitoke. In the ninth century two canoes arrived – one with a man called Ata-i-te-kura from ’Iva and one from Haapai (Tonga) with two brothers.
A legend from Puaikura tells the story of Rau Mataiapo and his son, who went to ‘Iva to obtain tattoo patterns (using highly prized kura feathers in exchange), but were killed for their efforts. His widow’s tears are said to have filled the ground and turned into a continuous spring named Vai-o-kura. About 1050, Toi of ’Iva built Rarotonga’s back-road, called Te Aranui o Toi (now called Ara-metua), which once completely encircled the island. It was paved for about two thirds of its length with flat volcanic stones. Its width was about 5-7 metres. Most of the road is still in use today, though it’s now tar-sealed.
The links weren’t just one way. Legends suggest that Rarotonga was well known to other islands in ancient Polynesia as a source of kura (red lorikeet) feathers. Aka (Rata) from the Marquesas lost up to 100 of the 140 men he travelled with in a perilous voyage to Rarotonga (A’otona) to get kura feathers. He is said to have obtained enough feathers to pay back the families of the deceased when he returned home.
In the saga of the discovery of Ma’uke island in the Cooks, there are chants which refer to ’Iva.
Nuku-ta’a-roa ki-’Avaiki, the ta’unga (priest), while dedicating the child, Uke, son of the chief, Tangaroa-nui, utters:
E ariki reia, e ariki puareia ki ’Iva.
A chief with talisman necklace, a chief with flower necklace at ’Iva.
In the same story, Ma’uke’s discoverer, Uke, says to an enemy, whom he encounters on his voyage of discovery:
Ake koe e te tuna o Vaerota e porutu vave mai. Ka ’ iri’iri katoa atu au iaku kia kite koe. Ko au ko Uke Ariki, e tamaiti na Tangaroa-nui, e noo i te enua o te tane, koia taku pito enua ko Avaiki.
Do not make noise yet, you eel of Vaerota. I will also introduce myself so you will know who I am. I am Uke Ariki, the son of Tangaroa-nui living in the land of men, which is my line of birth in ’Avaiki.
The references to the Marquesas, as in ‘’Iva’, and the ‘land of men’ (the name of the Marquesans for their islands – Henua Enana, Land of Men), is evident throughout the story.
Part II next week.

25 July 2010

Pacific Arts Symposium in Rarotonga

Picture by Tim Buchanan from PAA programme150 people from all over the world will be attending the 10th International Symposium on Pacific Arts next month (9-11 August, Crown Beach Resort, Rarotonga). Many of those presenting papers are curators, art historians, conservators, and lecturers in art from universities, museums and art galleries, which have Oceanic collections, or are specialists in the field of Oceanic art.
The Cook Islands Library and Museum Society is assisting the Ministry of Education and the University of the South Pacific with hosting this event in Rarotonga - the first time it’s been held in the Cook Islands although it has been held in the Pacific on several occasions since the Pacific Art Association was founded in 1974.
People making presentations on Cook Islands specific topics, include Michaela Appel of the State Museum of Ethnology, Munich, Germany (Female Figures from Aitutaki: traces of genealogy and descent); Jill Hasell of the British Museum
(Missionary Enterprises and the Modern Presentation of Cook Islands Culture); Jacqui Durrant of La Trobe University, Australia (Rarotonga Staff Gods); Phyllis Herda of University of Auckland (The creation of a new tradition: women’s quilting in the Cook Islands); Hilary Scothorn-Tohi of Auckland (Uncovering the Past: a report on recent research with Cook Islands Tapa).
International artists who will be exhibiting their work include Janet Lilo and Nanette Lela’ulu.
A cabaret, a tivaivai exhibition, traditional tattooing, a craft-making exhibition and a number of art exhibitions, involving both overseas and local contemporary artists, will all be part of this exciting three day event.
The Pacific Arts Association (PAA), is an international organisation devoted to study of all the arts of Oceania. Its aims are:
1. To make members more aware of the state of all the arts in all parts of Oceania;
2. To encourage international understanding among the nations involved in the arts of Oceania;
3. To promote high standards of research, interpretation and reporting on the arts of Oceania;
4. To stimulate more interest in the teaching of courses on Oceanic art especially but not only at the tertiary level;
5. To encourage greater cooperation among the institutions and individuals who are associated with arts in Oceania;
6. To encourage high standards of conservation and preservation of the material culture in and of Oceania.
Check out the Rarotonga PAA blog and the PAA website for more information.

17 July 2010

Gordon Henry Sawtell (1929-2010)

Gordon with Maria Henderson & Mr and Mrs Tamaiva at CILAMS xmas Council do 2009, at Tamarind House
Gordon with friends M/M Viti in Atiu, June, 2009

Gordon came from a large family in Bognor Regis in Sussex, UK, where his parents were gentleman farmers. He was born there on 13 October 1929.
He moved to New Zealand after having travelled and worked in France, Tripoli (1948-9), and Durban (1950-54), and became a NZ resident in 1954.
Before moving to New Zealand Gordon served in the Royal Army Medical Corps (service no 21066879).
He was an industrial nurse at Tokoroa, NZ, for a brief time in the early 1960s. From 1962-70 he worked for the Department of Justice - Penal Services.
In 1970 he moved to the Cook Islands and transferred to the Cook Islands Public Service where he was Prison Advisory Officer.
In 1971 was the Resident Agent at Atiu.
He worked in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1972-78; in 1979 he became chief Protocol Officer for the Cook Islands government.
He retired on medical grounds in 1982.
Gordon was an active member of the community serving many non-profit organisations over the years, including the Crippled Childrens’ Society, Returned Servicemen’s Association (where he was vice president twice) and the Cook Islands Library and Museum Society (where he was beginning his second term as president). Gordon was also the sole trustee and administrator of a trust, which administered the funds to maintain the graves of former cancer patients buried at Nikao near the RSA. Gordon gave his surname to the kopeka or Atiu Swiftlet (Aerodramus sawtelli) after reporting its existence to David Holyoak of a British ornithological society (and author of the publication sponsored by CILAMS, Guide to Cook Islands Birds).
Gordon is survived by his two daughters, Atina and Lorna, and a son, Monga.

14 July 2010

Solar Eclipse at Manuae in 1965

The solar eclipse of 11 July 2010 brought hundreds of tourists to Mangaia and created huge local interest but it is not the first total eclipse in recent history to be visible from the Cook Islands as the following post recalls.

On May 31, 1965, the Cook Islands Administration issued a 6d stamp to commemorate the solar eclipse. The most favoured position for observing this phenomenon was Manuae Island, an atoll comprising two islets, located near Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.
New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, USA, Germany, Japan and Russia all sent teams of scientists. Unfortunately, on the day cloud obscured the sun and scientific observations from the island itself were consequently restricted.
The eclipse attracted the largest gathering of solar astronomers ever to observe an eclipse from a single site. Manuae, their base, is an atoll of 1524 acres. At the time, the atoll’s normal population was a score of copra labourers. On May 30 1965, there were also 85 scientists and their assistants. A post office set up on Manuae during the scientists’ visit issued the special 6d stamp depicting a coconut tree and the partly eclipsed sun.

On the day of the eclipse, the skies over Manuae were clear at first, but just before totality occurred a large cloud appeared and spoiled the scientists' efforts. But the cloud cover did not mar the work of the American scientists based on Rarotonga, who fired 5 Nike-Tomahawk rockets to an altitude of 300,000 feet – 175 miles into an area close to the zone of eclipse totality. Their object was to measure low energy x-rays from the sun. The rockets were fired from a base built on the property of Captain Andy Thomson, well-known Cook Islands skipper.
The rockets shot through Rarotonga’s skies with the velocity of anti-aircraft shells. White vapour trails marked their ascent, and a rumbling sound like distant thunder marked the first breaking of the sound barrier. The blast-off of the rockets scared nearby livestock. Pigs jumped out of their pens and ran wild. As the blasts echoed round the hills dogs hurtled in all directions, too over-awed to bark. When the eclipse brought premature night, Rarotongan chickens went to roost. Even the noisy mynah birds were silent. (Sourced from an article written by WH Percival for PIM, July 1965)
The late Stuart Kingan described the Manuae eclipse in his book ‘Making Waves’.
The library has a copy of ‘Making Waves’ in the reference section.
The Manuae stamp is in our stamp collection.

History of Manuae

At the beginning of the 1900s, Manuae was a penal settlement for the Cook Islands. The convicts who were sent there worked on a copra plantation. The representative of the government on the island was the jailer. By 1966 Manuae had a population of 15 people; by 1971 there were 2. Today it is uninhabited.
Aitutaki tradition gives the honour of discovery of this atoll to their ancestor Ruatapu, an intrepid Polynesian explorer. During his second voyage in 1773, Captain Cook sighted the atoll; on his third voyage in April 1777, he went to the atoll but did not land. The island appeared to be under the rule of a chief from Atiu. The first name Cook gave the island was Sandwich, but later crossed that name out to give it to the Hawaiian islands. He renamed the island Harvey isle in honour of a Lord of the Admiralty.
In 1823, Rev John Williams visited the island and found some sixty people to be living there. Some six or seven years later there were only 8 adults and some children living there. Missionaries took them to Aitutaki.

28 June 2010

Thor Heyerdahl’s first Pacific adventure

Fatu-Hiva: Back to Nature

This is the story of Thor Heyerdahl’s first Pacific adventure long ago, before World War II. The young Heyerdahl and his equally young bride, Liv, sailed by Tahitian schooner for the lonely jungle island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas, French Polynesia. Living off the land they hoped to find the answer to the questions that had been troubling them: is man better or worse off in office and factory than primitive man gathering fruits and fishing in the wilderness?; is man’s flight from nature really ‘progress’?
Their struggle against the climate, mosquitoes and venomous insects, rain, skin disease, local hostility – their hazardous ocean voyages in an open boat, and an idyllic month spent with the last Polynesian cannibal – make a rich and compelling story, and provide an answer to questions which are even more relevant today than they were when the author raised them over 70 years ago.
The period spent by Heyerdahl in Fatu Hiva is also significant because it was there that the ideas were formed, which eventually led to the author’s famous Kon Tiki expedition.
The library has 2 copies of this book (illustrated throughout with numerous b& w photos).
We are posting this blog from Tahiti and about to embark, though on a cruise/cargo ship rather than a schooner, for the Marquesas. If there is internet access on board we’ll post a picture of Fatu Hiva as it is now. If not the next post will be in about fortnight’s time.

17 June 2010

In the wake of Kon Tiki

Eric de Bisschop’s unlucky voyage on the Tahiti-Nui

The story of the French navigator and explorer, Eric de Bisschop, as told by himself in his autobiography Tahiti Nui: by raft from Tahiti to Chile (published in 1958) and the completion of the tale of his life (including his tragic death on the reef at Rakahanga in the Cook Islands in November, 1958) is told by Bengt Danielsson in his book From Raft to Raft (published 1962). Both books are available in our library.
De Bisschop, an old man by this point, died from injuries received when the raft hit the reef one stormy night. A respectful Protestant funeral was organised by the Rakahangans for the Catholic de Bisschop, with the whole population turning out in their best Sunday whites. The next day a French navy frigate came to retrieve the four surviving crewmembers and to exhume de Bisschop’s body, which was to be returned to France for a hero’s burial.
Interestingly, there is a further Cook Islands connection to this story: Francis Cowan, one of the raft crew and famous Tahitian mariner, was part-Rarotongan; his sister, Patricia Metzker, who lives at Matavera, volunteers every Wednesday at the Cook Islands Library and Museum.

Crew of the Tahiti-Nui (from left): Francis Cowan, Michel Brun, Eric de Bisschop, Alain Brun.

There is a recollection of the raft arriving at Rakahanga one night in November 1958, in a story published by Cook Islands News some years ago, although the authors of that article, Tau Greig & Wayne Meyer, thought that the raft was in fact the Kon Tiki (of Thor Heyerdahl fame).
Eric de Bischop had set out to prove that Heyerdahl’s theory of Polynesian settlement of the Pacific from east to west was incorrect.
De Bisschop, it seems, had also attempted other voyages, which ended in disaster - first in a sampan, which was wrecked on Formosa (Taiwan); he also had a boat wreck on Molokai in Hawaii; he built a twin-hulled canoe, named Kamiloa, which he took to Cannes, through the Cape of Good Hope. Marshall Petain himself welcomed him, upon arrival in 1939. He went to Tahiti on a junk in 1948; after it sunk in the harbour, he got the idea to take a raft to Chile and back. The story of that voyage is told with humour and sadness in the book From Raft to Raft.
Both of these books were of interest to old sea salts like Peter Nelson, a member of the library since its founding in 1964. Nelson was a supercargo on the veteran schooners that plied their trade in French Polynesia and the Cooks in the 1950s and 1960s. Nelson passed away two years ago but not before publishing two novels about life on the sea (which we also have in the library, to be reviewed later).

10 June 2010

Religious “wars” in the Cooks in the 1950s

Bernard Thorogood was a London Missionary Society minister who served in the Cook Islands during 1950s and 60s.
His book, Not Quite Paradise, published in 1960 by London Missionary Society, UK, is an honest and often humorous look at Cook Islands life in the 1950s.
Here is one example of friction between religions.
Manihiki has a larger Roman Catholic population than most of our islands, so it is not surprising to find friction arising between the groups. Little annoyances swell into serious quarrels. Perhaps one Sunday the Catholics have finished their service while ours is still going on, so the Catholic children start playing in the street outside our church. Our deacons call this a deliberate insult (which it almost certainly is not) and plan some way of revenge. Our church supports the Boys’ Brigade; the Catholics have the Boy Scouts, so the two groups, both dedicated to good citizenship, tend to work against each other. Our side blame the others for starting all the disputes, but I have never known a matter of this kind where the fault is all on one side. A lot depends on the good sense of our pastors and the Catholic priests. Occasionally some outside activity is big enough to draw both sides together.
We have a couple of copies at the library.
Former LMS missionary to the Cooks Bernard Thorogood is second from the right with Matilda Miria-Tairea, Ron Crocombe, Sally Voss, Jean Mason and president Gordon Sawtell. This CI News photograph was taken in July 2008.

03 June 2010

Milan Brych: the Cancer Man

We have two copies of the book Milan Brych: the cancer man (published 1980) by Australian journalist Frank Quill (who tends to be supportive of Brych) and one CD-ROM from the anti-Brych Underground Website http://mbuw.org/ in the library; both are available for lending.
Vlastimil Milan Brych, a Czechoslovakian pharmacist, claimed to have a cure for cancer and established a clinic in Rarotonga in 1977 with the support of the Cook Islands Party (CIP) government of the time. Brych had practiced as a cancer clinician in Australia and New Zealand, before being kicked out of both countries. Here he was allowed to practice his secret immunotherapy techniques on cancer patients who travelled from all over the world to his cancer clinic in the Cook Islands.
Next to the RSA at Nikao on Rarotonga is a cemetery locals refer to as the “Brychyard”, where his unsuccessful patients ended up.
After leaving the Cook Islands he moved to Los Angeles in the USA but in 1980 he was convicted of practicing medicine without a licence and jailed. He served three years of a 6-year sentence and was then deported to Switzerland.
Brych may have many detractors still but he also has many supporters, particularly in the patients who believe he cured them.

The "Brych Yard" at Nikao, Rarotonga

28 May 2010

Headrest vs seat / urunga vs no’o’anga

This picture shows three urunga in the CILAMS museum collection.
Urunga are headrests but in a number of museums in the world they are often mistakenly referred to as seats (no’o’anga or atamira). In fact these three exhibits were once labelled as ‘thrones’.However two carvers on Rarotonga, Henry Tavioni and Gavin Aratangi have both recently confirmed that these items are urunga.
Seats for chiefs were larger and taller although similarly carved. In the past, commoners sat on the ground or floor. Urunga are carved from a single piece of wood, usually tamanu (island mahogany). One of the three in our collection is from Atiu, one is from Mitiaro and the other is of uncertain provenance.They are between 44cm and 50cm long, 18cm to 24cm wide, and 7.5cm to 9.5cm high at the lowest point.
Before European beds and feather or kapok-stuffed pillows were introduced, Maori people slept on mats on the floor so it makes sense that urunga, given their size and height, would have been used to support the head.
Anything higher than 9.5cm is probably a seat.
A typical headrest has 4 tear-drop shaped feet and the ends of the ‘seat’ are curved upwards.
Maori traditionally considered the head (upoko) a sacred part of the body, so it is unlikely anything used for resting the head on would be used for sitting on as well – in fact anything associated with the head is always treated with respect.For example, a hat, which is worn on the head, is never left on the floor where feet walk. Children are often spanked if they sit on pillows. Makave rouru (hair sections tied with ribbon) from a haircutting ceremony are stored away carefully for years.
The head is considered superior to other parts of the body. Upoko also means leader, ruler or head of a clan, group or tribe.
Makiuti Tongia said recently that an urunga was considered tapu and was often buried with the owner when he or she died.
When we were children, my younger brother stood and rocked on an urunga with his feet, much to our grandfather’s (Kairae Papa, born in Atiu, 1914 - died Mauke, 1991) disgust. My brother was scolded severely for putting his ‘dirty feet where one puts his head’. I also recall our grandfather telling us the item should be stored up high, not sitting on our living room floor.
Akekaro Kairae, a Maukean, remembers her grandfather, Tauraariki J Paparongo (1888-1965) always used a wooden urunga of the types pictured to support his head whenever he lay down on a mat on a concrete floor, which elderly people often did (and some still do) in an effort to ease their aching backs.Urunga were reputedly made in all the islands of the Cooks group except Mangaia. - Jean Tekura Mason, curator

18 May 2010

The mystery of the Ranginui ‘drum’

(Click picture for a larger image)
This upright anthropomorphic drum from Mangaia in the Cook Islands is the only one of its kind in the world. It also has a unique history, having survived numerous air raids in London during World War II, where the former owner, William Oldman, and his wife Dorrie, protected their collection in the basement of their house using buckets of sand and water. The bulk of the collection was bought by the NZ government in 1948 and was divided up and shared amongst the major and regional museums of New Zealand. This piece went to the Napier Museum in Hawke’s Bay, where it resided for many years until a former president of CILAMS spotted it and asked for its return. It was eventually returned in 1988.
William Oldman saw a lot of significance in the piece – it was never offered for sale in his catalogues and was kept with his personal Easter Island, Hawaiian and Cook Islands collections. A photo of Oldman in a booklet called ‘No sort of iron’, shows this piece nearby.
The label that accompanied this artwork from New Zealand claims it is “Ranginui, master of tranquility”. However, nowhere in Mangaia’s history or mythology is such a character evident. Perhaps the carver, or Oldman himself named it, or maybe it was named by one of the many curators who have taken care of the carving over the years.
But the question always being asked about this item - is it a drum at all?
It has been labelled as such for nearly 100 years but it doesn’t have the typical features of a Cook Islands drum; for one thing it is made of coconut palm wood, which is not usually used for drums as it is not durable and doesn’t produce a good sound.
Secondly, it is too ornately carved; typical drums have designs carved sparingly on them so as not to interfere with the quality of sound. By contrast this one has carved designs on every surface, except the head. Most of the designs on the drum are the double ‘k’ design. This motif is said to represent two warrior brothers fighting back to back, who were slain around 1725. Their sacrifice contributed greatly to their father, Mautara, being installed as “Mangaia” (leader) of the whole island (Ref: MPJ Reilly, War and Succession in Mangaia, which we have in the Library). It is a motif commonly used on ceremonial adzes and it is the ‘k’ motif that helps to identify Ranginui as Mangaian.

11 May 2010

Whaling wives at sea

Prize-wining New Zealand author, Joan Druett discovered a grave in an unkempt cemetery at Ngatangiia on Rarotonga while resting in the shade of a tree nearby.
The inscription on the stone read:

To the Memory of Mary-Ann, the beloved Wife of
Captn A:D Sherman, of the American Whale Ship Harrison
WHO departed this life January 5: 1850 Aged 24 years

That grave is the motivation for the book ‘Petticoat Whalers: whaling wives at sea, 1820-1920’.
The book is about the experiences of the women on board the windjammer whalers and in the boisterous ports of nineteenth century New Zealand, Hawaii, Australia, Chile and Peru, as well as on a host of islands, including the Cook Islands (then known as Hervey Islands).
We learn that an extraordinary number of women accompanied their husband-skippers on these long and perilous voyages despite the many dangers and privations.
The women went for several reasons – the main one being they didn’t like to be separated from their menfolk for the four of five years each voyage typically lasted.
American Eliza Brock called at Rarotonga on the Lexington in March 1854 and reported:

‘stoped at the Missionary’s house, Rev Mr Buzzacotts [and] had a very pleasant visit stayed there two days found them to be very fine Folkes, very pious people’.

Eliza visited Mr Buzzacott’s church ‘…just finished built by the Natives a very nice one [though] not quite equal to the Churches in America’.
She also met the Queen, ‘shook hands with her. She was dressed in a white Robe, with a wide long red belt around her waist.’

Another American, Lucy Smith, who called at Aitutaki on 12th January 1876, had this to say about her visit.

“There are 1500 inhabitants on the island and at least 1000 were on the shore to see us land. They filled the road leading to Mr Royle’s (LMS minister) house and as we went up the native police took little whips and whipped each to make room for us to walk and all that could get to the edge of the road held their hands to shake hands with us sometimes three extended their hands and caught mine at the same time. There are 600 children that attend school regularly… Mr Royle has charge with 70 native teachers under him… he is also assisted by his wife and daughter Alice they gave us a very cordial welcome and we enjoyed the day very much. We visited the schoolhouse and church large buildings built of Adobe with thatched roofs the pillars and rafters all covered with cloth made from the mulberry tree and painted with black figures*. We stopped until about four and when we came away brought a number of curiosities presented by Mr Royle and family.”

(*note interesting use of tapa cloth)

Published by Collins, Auckland, NZ, 1991, housed in CILAMS’ Pacific Reference Collection.

05 May 2010

A stitch in time …

This tivaivai is quite possibly the oldest still in existence.
It was a farewell gift to the Rev JJK Hutchin on his return to New Zealand in 1912, where he reportedly died before the ship docked.
Rev Hutchin was a missionary for 30 years and was the first principal of Tereora College when it opened in 1895.
His great-grand daughter Carolyn McCracken brought the tivaivai back to Rarotonga for a short time in 2008 when this photograph was taken.
Tivaivai are appliqué and patchwork bedcovers made by women in the Cook Islands either working alone or in a group.
Some of the makers say it’s backbreaking work and certainly the finished products are not for daily use on a bed! They are treasured, and only brought out on special occasions.
In fact, the practice of using favoured tivaivai as shrouds for the deceased accounts for the scarcity of any over 60 years old.
The museum has a small collection of tivaivai and the library has several books on the subject (in the Pacific section).
We also have photographs of the Rev Hutchin and his family at the Takamoa Mission House and at the opening of Tereora College.
The history and practice of tivaivai making in the Cook Islands is fascinating. For an in-depth account CHECK THIS ARTICLE also on this blog.

28 April 2010

No change at the top

AGM time at the library and museum and the regular group of members, with a couple of extras, turned out to form a quorum.
One really, really good thing about small committees is that the elections tend to be short and sweet, as was the case here.
The new council is: patron - Dorice Reid Te Tika Mataiapo; president - Gordon Sawtell; vice president - Ian Karika; treasurer - Malcolm Laxton-Blinkhorn; secretary - Luina Lynch; curator - Jean Mason; assistant curator - Garth Henderson; editor - Moana Moeka’a; ordinary members - Wendy Evans, Richard Wachter, Marjorie Crocombe, Gerald McCormack, Myra Patai.
Ian Karika at the moment is on board the new voyaging outrigger canoe, Marumaru Atua, part of a fleet of four on a three month journey from New Zealand to Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and back to New Zealand.
Several of our volunteers have either left or will be leaving the island soon so council members might have to get weeding, dusting and painting to keep things ship shape.
The library is applying for funding to get a solar system installed and things are looking promising. It would be a real boon as power is one of our biggest bills each month and if we produce more than we use it gets fed back into the grid and we get a credit!
We continue to add books to the shelves, 124 in April, mostly donations.
Of course, finding somewhere to put them all can be a problem.
The number of readers is increasing too. That’s obviously a good thing and with the national library apparently planning to stop its lending department the number’s likely to grow further. More pressure on our limited space!
We can’t go upwards (foundations aren’t suitable).
Looks like we might need to use TARDIS technology!

24 April 2010

ANZAC update

The New Zealand History online website (www.nzhistory.net.nz) has a section on Pacific islanders in the First World War and in particular a page about the Rarotongan Company.
This was the name given to the Cook Islanders of the second contingent who were attached to the NZEF in Egypt but worked for the British in the campaign against the Ottoman Turks in Sinai and Palestine.
Read about the Rarotongan Company here and see also the photo gallery here.

20 April 2010

Call of Empire

(CILAMS has a number of photographs relating to World War 1 and ANZAC Day in its archives but not as many as we would like).

First World War contingent of Cook Islanders at Narrow Neck Camp, Auckland.
Anzac Day, 25 April, marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs.
The red poppy worn on ANZAC Day in this part of the world has become a global symbol of war remembrance, although in many countries the poppy is worn around Armistice Day (11 November, marking the end of the First World War).
About 500 Cook Islanders enlisted to serve in the New Zealand armed forces during Word War I. Over 300 of them saw active service, while others died on entering training camps or were returned to Rarotonga as unfit for military service. In all, five contingents left from Rarotonga. (A list of the 313 who saw active service can be found on the
Auckland Museum website here.)

According to Lt-Col J L Sleeman in The War Effort of New Zealand, 1923…
“Possibly of all the loyal responses in the call of Empire from every habitable portion of the globe, the most unique came from Britain’s most distant possessions in the Pacific… First and foremost among these islanders must come the Rarotongans from the Cook Islands, including men from Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Aitutaki, Mitiaro, Manihiki, Pukapuka, Penrhyn and Palmerston … better material for conversion into soldiers could not be found”.

In September 1915, the first contingent of 47 Cook Islanders left Rarotonga. After training in New Zealand and a month in Egypt they were sent to the front at the Battle of the Somme. Nineteen-year-old Corporal Apu Tepuretu was killed in action on 30 September 1916 (and is buried in France), his brother Sergeant Araitia Tepuretu, was severely wounded. Corporal Manuel Anthony of Rarotonga and Lance-corporal Solomona of Manihiki died of sickness; at least 8 of those first 47 volunteers died of sickness and Private Vavia William from Mauke died of wounds, bringing the total death rate to 23 percent.
During the Third Battle of Ypres, in October 1917, Private John Tuaine Apa of Aitutaki was awarded the Military Medal.
Sgt George Karika in the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion was awarded a DCM in Egypt, 1917, for gallantry while in charge of a platoon.
The last two contingents left Rarotonga in June and in October of 1918, but did not see service overseas as the Germans surrendered in November that year.
Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information about other Cook Islands men and women who served in both World Wars as very little has been written about this part of Cook Islands history.

The last WWI veteran, Tepou Putaura of Avatiu, died on 29 September 1989. WWII veteran, Percy Henderson OBE, of NIkao, died 6 April 2006. Norm Ebbett and Baxter Hunter are the last two remaining vets from WWII.

1921 group including a returned serviceman. L to R – Epi Tunatu, Tetupuariki Araiti, Tunu Uirangi, Eteke Teava, Rangi Tara’are, Ngoroio Pori Makea, Terou, unnamed?, Teariki Apai, Tepuretu Tepuretu.

Old soldiers at an ANZAC Day parade (early 1970s). Marchers include Araitia Tepuretu; L-R Ngarea Titi, Vaevae Tamarua, Reboama, Tamaiva Ironui, Tangiia, JD Campbell, Jim Teruaa’u.

Short videos of 2009 ANZAC Day in Rarotonga

13 April 2010

Fly me to the Moon

The Apollo landings in Cook Islands waters
This set of stamps was issued in the 1970s to commemorate the Apollo landings. It is part of the Library and Museum's stamp collection. Click picture for a larger image.
What, you might ask, is the Cook Islands connection with the Apollo space programme?
Well, the Cook Islands is the only territory in the world outside of the United States within whose geographic boundaries Apollo space flights regularly splashed down.
The Cook Islands comprise the area between 6 degrees to 23 degrees south latitude and 156 degrees ad 167 degrees west longitude, an area of over 180,000 square miles (over 460,000 square kilometres).
Two flights after the first Moon landing by the astronauts on Apollo 11, the damaged Apollo 13 splashed down safely just to the west of Rarotonga. Several other Apollo flights landed in other Cook Islands areas, or just to the north of the Cook Islands, and aircraft flew over the Cook Islands to monitor all the Apollo landings.
The astronauts of Apollo 15 named their space capsule “Endeavour” after the ship of Captain James Cook, namesake of the Cook Islands, and one of the later space shuttles was also named “Endeavour”.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, is a regular visitor to the Cook Islands. He is a good friend of local resident Tap Pryor, a former marine biologist and founder of the Sea Life Park in Hawaii, who has lived in the Cook Islands for over 20 years. Tap is also a former member of the Cook Islands Library & Museum Society council.

Map by CI Philatelic Bureau

The story of Apollo
The Apollo programme began on 25 May 1961, when President Kennedy announced that men would be sent to the Moon by the end of the decade. A disaster occurred in 1967 when three astronauts died in the lunar craft while training on the ground. The first practice flight was in 1968 in Apollo 7, and Apollo 8 took its crew of three astronauts round the Moon, without landing. The first landing was made in 1969 by Apollo 11. The following six Apollo flights went according to plan except for Apollo 13, which had vital equipment destroyed in an explosion during the outward journey, and had to return to Earth without landing.

The Apollo Landings on the Moon
Apollo 11: 16-24 July 1969; Mare Tranquillitatis.
Apollo 12: 14-24 November 1969; Oceanus Procellarum.
Apollo 13: 11-17 April 1970; no landing.
Apollo 14: 31 January-9 February 1971; Oceanus Procellarum.
Apollo 15: 26 July-7 August 1971; Appenine Mountains.
Apollo 16: 16-27 April 1972; Descartes crater in the lunar highlands.
Apollo 17: 7-19 December 1972; Mare Serenitatis.

07 April 2010

Any old iron?

The library and museum building is over forty years old so it’s not surprising that it’s in need of maintenance.
Two years ago, in February 2008, it got a new roof. Now it’s the turn of the iron supporting posts.
In wet weather, rain drips from the roof and down the posts. Some posts have rusted almost completely away near ground level.
The library wants its new roof to remain overhead so Raro Welding boys are on the job replacing the corroded sections.

Before 1960 there was neither a library nor a museum in the Cook Islands. (Now there are two of each but that’s another story!)
The CILAMS story began at a public meeting in the early 1960s. The people elected at the meeting had a massive job.
Makea Nui Ariki Teremoana CBE donated land for the venture and the committee started fund raising,
Architect Ken Mills designed the original building (steel frame with concrete block panels; roofing of corrugated galvanised iron; wooden ceiling linings; concrete floor).
It was completed in 1963 and opened in December 1964. The Cook Islands Library and Museum Society now had a place to call home.
During 1974 and 1975 the building expanded with a new 800 sq ft extension to provide archives for the Cook Islands government and private sector.
The library and museum both grew and membership has increased so more space was needed!
In 1999 the existing verandah was closed in to form the new junior library and a smaller verandah added on.
The room at the back of the library that once housed the archives is now used by the University of the South Pacific for art classes.
Rotary funded a lean-to in 2009. It will be used for outdoor events such as sculpture workshops.

30 March 2010

An earthy account of life in the Cooks

Following is part of a review (in PIM, July 1965) of a book titled Today is Forever by Robert Julian Dashwood (pen name Julian Hillas), an eccentric Englishman who lived in the Cook Islands from the 1930s until his death in 1970.
“Rakau” (the Maori word for wood), as he was known locally, is the only European to have been elected to the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly since self-government in 1965.
Cook Islands Library and Museum has two copies of his book, which is still a popular read after all these years.
This book was originally published in the United States under the title Today is Forever. But the English version, which is understood to have been much edited and abbreviated, is called South Seas Paradise.
South Seas Paradise begins in Sydney in 1930 where the author, with an incompatible wife in tow called Winifred, was on his beams ends, and one of more than 100,000 unemployed.
A silent movie, White Shadows in the South Seas, moved him to sell his last remaining asset, a decrepit car, and buy a steamer ticket to Tahiti. When the steamer sailed, Winifred was left behind and Dashwood decided to “remedy a lack of appreciation shown by the war office some years previously” by adopting the rank of captain. On reaching Rarotonga, he met an old friend, James Carfax-Foster (now of Fiji), whom he had last seen in Constantinople “organising a football game on the floor of a night club and insisting that the White Russian hostess take part.”
Carfax-Foster invited him to visit a plantation he was running at the far end of the island, and Dashwood wound up running the place himself instead of going to Tahiti. His self-adopted captain’s rank helped him to bluff officialdom into permitting him to stay. He subsequently made a living by trapping rats and collecting a bounty from the Administration – delivering the rats whole, and very dead, when officialdom refused to accept only their tails; and by serving in a Rarotonga store.
Then he spent an idyllic year on Rakahanga atoll in the Northern Cooks – a place where today is forever, and tomorrow never comes”, and where he wrote a novel called I know an Island, which is his only other published book.
High on the list is the author’s account of his highly profitable life as a “pox doctor’s clerk” during a visit to Tahiti in the 1930s. Another highlight is a side-splitting account of the visit to Ma’uke (where the author lived), during the war of New Zealand’s vice-regal pair, Lord and Lady Galway.
Throughout the book are many acute observations on Polynesian life as the author sees it and some brilliant pearls of Dashwoodian philosophy, which clearly explain how the author has managed to live where he has all these years and to enjoy every minute of it.

24 March 2010

The haunted adze

In June 1950 a boy working in the Avarua school vegetable plot uncovered a stone adze near an outcrop of the same stone.
This ceremonial adze has been part of the Cook Islands Library and Museum collection since 1964.

Three eminent academics of the time (Duff, Skinner and Buck) said it is one of the finest specimens ever found in Rarotonga and is similar to two others, one found in Nassau and the other in Rakahanga. Both of those are northern group atolls with no stone so the adzes must have been taken there by early voyagers from Rarotonga.
The late Percy Henderson, who was assistant master of Avarua School at that time, wrote a report about the more unusual properties of this adze.
“Adze was taken to Mr Graham’s Education Officer house for safe keeping.
From the day it was taken there – queer noises were heard every night. (Creakings, groanings and footsteps in the ceiling.)
On two occasions Mr Graham got out of bed to trace noises without avail.
As Mr Graham was to leave on a trip around the group Mrs Graham said she believed the adze was cause of trouble and asked me to take it to my room at the hotel. I did so.
I shared this room with the senior teacher of the Post Primary Department. Without his knowledge, one Sunday, I locked the adze in a cabin trunk in my wardrobe.
My room mate later had his usual afternoon nap, but after half an hour seemed to have a terrific nightmare and awoke crying out “the adze”.
When fully awake he laughed and explained he had dreamt that the adze was dragging him into my wardrobe. I then told him that the adze really was in the wardrobe (this was his first knowledge of this fact). We laughed it off as a dream.
That night at 1am I awoke to hear my room mate screaming and writhing with his body out of bed and his legs pointing to my wardrobe.
He was difficult to awake, but finally managed to sit up and said that once again he had dreamt of the adze and that its spirit was dragging him again to the wardrobe where it would kill him – this dream was most realistic. We laughed it off again.
Next night he dreamed again, this time when I awoke him he was out of bed half-way across the floor, and his first words were, “Thank God you woke me, it nearly had me that time.” Later of course we dismissed this again as a dream.
Next day unknown to my room mate I removed the adze to safe keeping in the Administration safe.
That night all was well and in the morning on awaking he said, “Well I’ve beaten it at last – never even thought of it last night.”
There were no more dreams.
Old people of the island have heard this story and explain it by saying the adze evidently was a sacred one and it had a guardian spirit appointed to it.
Why didn’t it affect me?
They replied you respect it and promised to guard it and never let it leave the island therefore why should it distrust you?
Many Cook Islanders believe in ghosts but there have been no reports of visitations in the museum. However, the library and museum building is close to Avarua school where the adze was discovered and it is certainly a valued - and respected - artefact.

17 March 2010

Mu’umu’u magic

In August 2009 the museum held an exhibition of mu’umu’u. Curator/coordinator Jean Tekura Mason here describes the flowing dresses much-loved by local women.

Friends and supporters of the Library and Museum Society; most of the women volunteer every Wednesday.This long, voluminous gown with long sleeves and a high neck was introduced by missionaries to the Pacific, who insisted that their converts cover their bodies in the tradition of their home country. It is probable this garment has been worn by local women since the arrival of missionaries on Rarotonga in 1823.
The word mu’umu’u comes from the Hawaiian word muku for “cut off”, although the word mu’umu’u in Hawaii applies only to the shorter, simpler version of the garment (holoku being the earlier, longer version).
In the Cook Islands, the term mu’umu’u applies to all forms of the garment. Variations of the mu’umu’u appear in other countries of the Pacific, including Tahiti, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.
Based possibly on the nightdress worn by European women, or the loose dresses of rural women in the United Kingdom (some dresses may have arrived here in shipments of second-hand clothing), this garment has evolved from a plain, modest gown, with simple yoke, to one more elaborately adorned, and is now favoured by local women for special occasions, although the shorter version of the garment can be worn anytime.
The garment was designed to suit local conditions, where heavy fabrics, crinolines and corsets, which were fashionable at the time in Europe, would prove constricting and uncomfortable in our hotter climate. In the absence of underclothing, local women always wore a pareu beneath the mu’umu’u. (Pareu in this context is a one-and-a-half metre strip of fabric wrapped around the body (sarong). It is also the name given to the light weave cotton fabric used in making mu'umu'u).

This photograph from the 1890s was possibly taken by George Crummer.
It is part of the arhival collection of CILAMS.

Traditionally, mu’umu’u were made from muslin or calico, the earliest cotton fabrics to arrive to the Cook Islands (clothing in pre-contact times was made from tapa – paper mulberry, bark cloth). By the 1840s, cotton gins set up on Rarotonga by missionaries were producing fabrics both for export and for local use.
Mu’umu’u is characterised by its loose-fitting, flowing style and is often adorned with frills and lace. Until recently the most commonly used fabric in mu’umu’u was the versatile Chinese-made pareu fabric (a floral-printed, light-weave cotton originally made in the French Congo for French colonies). Pareu is used in everything from bedcovers to other soft furnishings and clothing.
Mu’umu’u of the past 50 years were characterised by a predominance of floral fabric in the garment.
Today, with an abundance of other fabrics readily available, many types are used in the garment’s construction. The emphasis now is on the use of plain fabrics, spliced with a smaller amount of floral-printed fabric. And where once the mu’umu’u was considered a dress for older women only, young women today wear a modernised version, which is shorter and more tight fitting.

10 March 2010

Baxter goes to the Cook Islands

An original George Baxter print, Te Po chief of Rarotonga, was donated to the Library and Museum Society in 2008 by Ernie Ryder (of Tauranga, NZ), on behalf of his Cook Islands born son, Nicholas (formerly Taereau Tuakanangaro).
Ernie was in the library on a visit to Rarotonga and spotted a photocopy of the print. He managed to trace an authentic Baxter print (through the New Baxter Society) and presented it to us.
George Baxter (1804-1867) was an English artist and printer who is credited with the invention of commercially viable colour printing. His method involved using a metal plate (to print a black outline, shading and details) and up to twenty different blocks for each of the other colours needed. His work was used for prints and book illustrations but although it was popular and technically excellent he was such a perfectionist that the business was never profitable.

Baxter began his affiliation with the missionary societies in 1837.
"In the nineteenth century missionary societies were very active and wealthy enough to finance expeditions to all parts of the world. The reports of their activities were eagerly followed and famous missionaries achieved the status and hero worship afforded to film stars today... (T)he societies were able to follow up the interest aroused by the exploits of their famous men with his (Baxter's) coloured prints, which were a novelty since photography was not then in use." (George Baxter and the Baxter Prints)
During his Missionary Prints Period (1837 to 1847) Baxter produced what are considered to be his finest and most serious work as an artist and colour printer. John Williams, the representative of the London Missionary Society who brought Christianity to the Cook Islands in 1821, went back to England in 1834 to supervise the printing of the New Testament in Rarotongan. George Baxter knew Williams personally, and painted him while he was in England.
At that time Williams also published a "Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands”.
The colour picture of Te Po appears at the front of this book and is now famous because it is the best rendition of a Cook Islands tattoo of that time. It was based on an original drawing by John Williams. The pose is a typical one but the only really clear parts of the tattoo are the turtle motifs on his knees - as a food item turtles were reserved for chiefs. (The library has a later edition of the book which does not have the Te Po picture).
The picture is titled Te po a chief of Rarotonga but it is more correct to call him Pa Te Pou Ariki (Takitumu vaka, Rarotonga). The Journal of the Polynesian Society says he is the 43rd Pa Ariki of the Takitumu tribe and was chief when the Gospel was introduced into Rarotonga. He died 1855 and was succeeded by his daughter Pa Upoko Takau Ariki.

04 March 2010

“Cook Islanders were vaka voyaging in modern times”

The Mauke vaka "Maire Nui" in 1992. Photo: Ewan Smith

“Faery Lands of the South Seas” is one of the many books in our collection by the famous writing partners, James Norman Hall & Charles B Nordhoff, both of whom lived in Tahiti. The book was serialised in Harpers Magazine in 1920-21 then published in book form (Harper and Brothers, USA, 1921).
One passage in the book describes a double-hulled canoe on Mauke.

We were strolling up the path between the canoe houses when Riley stopped me. “Come and have a look,” he said; “this is the only island I know of where
you can see an old-fashioned double canoe.”
There were two of them in the shed we entered under a roof of battered galvanized iron – long, graceful hulls fashioned from the trunks of trees, joined in pairs by timbers of ironwood laid across the gunwales and lashed down with sinnet. They were beautifully finished – scraped smooth and decorated with carving. In these craft, my companion told me, the men of Mauke still voyage to Atiu and Mitiaro, as they had done for generations before Cook sailed through the group.

In 1992 vaka building and voyaging experienced a resurgence in the Cook Islands when the country hosted the sixth Festival of Pacific Arts. Many southern group islands built vaka and sailed them to Rarotonga for the opening of the festival in October 1992.
The Mauke canoe, Maire Nui, is pictured above under sail in an atmospheric photograph by Ewan Smith.
On its 240km journey from Mauke it broke a boom, which halved the speed of travel to about 4 knots, but the boat arrived safely with a happy though exhausted crew.
After the festival the Maire Nui languished in a tin shed at the old Kia Orana food factory until the government property corporation decided it needed the shed for other purposes. The vaka, by now somewhat dilapidated, was moved outside.

The Mauke vaka "Maire Nui" in 2005.

The library and Mr T (Ti Pekepo) wanted to build a lean-to in the library’s garden area and teach local youth to renovate and then sail the boat, but no funding was available. Maire Nui was relocated to Mr T’s property where he works on it when he has time.
The tin shed is still standing although the Kia Orana factory has now been demolished.

27 February 2010

Ron Crocombe, a great friend of Pacific peoples

Ron Crocombe (second from right) with his wife Marjorie (far right) at a USP function in Rarotonga. Photo by Cook Islands News.

Ronald G Crocombe, professor emeritus, patron of the Cook Islands Library and Museum Society, passed away suddenly on June 18th 2009 at Auckland Airport, on his way home to Rarotonga. Born in Auckland on October 8 1929, Ron was just months away from his 80th birthday.
Ron grew up in the small town of Piopio and later attended Otahuhu College in Auckland. Ron obtained a BA from Victoria University; a PhD from Australia National University in the early 1960s. Ron travelled the world before arriving in the Cooks, where he married Marjorie Hosking and had 4 children. Ron had an extensive and successful career as a university professor, writer, lecturer and speaker specialising in the Pacific region.
Ron belonged to a generation of scholars that were imbued with the zeal of returning and restoring Pacific peoples to their rightful place in their home and region. This mission meant subordinating his own research interests to a lifetime of cajoling and persuading and ‘coercion’ of Pacific people to research and write their own history and experiences.
Ron devoted a lot of time facilitating and coordinating research by Pacific Islanders. The work of about 1700 Pacific Islanders had been brought to fruition and published through IPS (Institute of Pacific Studies) at University of the South Pacific in Fiji.
It is impossible to list all those whom Ron mentored throughout his lifetime. Many of his former students became prominent figures in the region: in government and the private sector as politicians, academics, writers, artists and leading business and community leaders.
In his 30 years of dedicated service at the USP in Fiji, Ron touched the lives of many students and fellow academics. Many have gone on to become leaders in their respective fields such as Vilisoni Hereniko, Uentabo Neemia-Mackenzie, Howard van Trease, Mere Pulea, Kauraka Kauraka, Morgan Tuimalealiifano, Brij Lal, Marjorie Crocombe, Claire Slatter and many others.
Ron’s publication record is monumental. He wrote Land Tenure in the Cook Islands, which has been a standard text for generations of researchers, as has the book The South Pacific (now in its seventh edition). Asia in the Pacific: Replacing the West was his most recent monumental work.
Even in retirement, Ron kept busy, always travelling, writing and lecturing. Ron was devoted to the library and museum society, always bringing in books and futurist magazines after every trip away from the Cook Islands.
We will remember this amazing man whose spirited generosity and inexhaustible energy kept the Cook Islands Library and Museum supplied for over 40 years with the latest scientific information on health and genetics as well as information on Pacific arts, history and Pacific peoples. In fact many of the books that form the core of our rare books collection have come from the Crocombe’s personal library over the years. Ron will be remembered most of all by the thousands of us whose lives he touched through his teaching and writing on the Pacific and through the kind of person he was – always full of humour and kindness.
E puna vai anuanu e putuputu ana te au kukupa.
(A cool pond at which the fruit doves gather to drink).

23 February 2010

The coconut controversy

The photographs below show the so-called seven sisters, palm trees that all grew from the same coconut.

The first was taken this year; the second is from the Cook Islands News Memory Lane archive.The coconut was planted outside the then-administration building (as you will see from the story below) and the trees survived the fire in 1991 that demolished the old wooden colonial-style building and the rebuilding of the courthouse by the Chinese in 2004.Sadly, there are now only six trees, the seventh having lost its head a few years ago.

Controversy over freak coconut palm
(From Cook Islands News 5 Sept 1969)
“With the passing of many years it is inevitable that most mens’ memories become less reliable, as any writer of recent history knows. This fact was proven once again this week when a controversy arose over the planting of the single coconut from which seven palms grew in front of the old Administration Building in Avarua.
In the June 1969 issue of the Cook Islands Review** the following item appeared with a photograph of Capt Andy Thomson standing in front of the cluster of seven coconut palms.
I remember seeing this coconut being planted in 1913: recalls Rarotonga’s most famous old timer Captain Andy Thomson, 83, as he poses in front of this extraordinary plant.
Capt Andy said that the coconut – which consists of seven palms all arising from a single nut, was brought to Rarotonga by the late grandfather of the Minister of Works and Communications, Hon. William Estall, from Manuae Atoll.
Capt Andy said he remembers the scene well. The coconut was brought from the wharf on a horse and buggy and was planted in the prominent site in front of the old Administration Building. The tree, probably 58 years old, watches changes coming.”
A couple of days ago Mr Umutai Greig came into the Press Office and stated that the above version of the coconut planting was incorrect and proceeded to give us his version, as follows: -
The seedlings from which the coconut palms growing together in front of the Court Room were planted in the year 1910. I actually saw the planting as I was in Rarotonga attending the old Tereora School. The seedling was planted in December of that year and it was brought by Howard Greig and Hagai from Takutea. The persons who planted the seedlings were Howard Greig, Hagai Pauinga and Putangi.
I te mataiti 1910 kua tae mai au ki te apii Tereora School. I te au marama openga o taua mataiti i tanu iaai teia akari. Na Howard Greig e Hagai i apaimai mei Takutea. Te aronga i tanu i teia akari : - Howard Greig, Hagai Pauinga e Putangi.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Check the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database website for an article by Gerald McCormack that solves the mystery of who planted the coconut. (Appears in new window)

** The library has thousands of rare Pacific books and also newsletters and magazines published here over the years including many issues of the ‘Cook Islands Review’ between 1954 and 1970.