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.

17 February 2010

The library mural

The picture at the head of this blog is a mural on the eastern wall of the library.
It was painted by Sue Trayler, an English artist who lived on the island with her husband for three years.
Sue Trayler and her husband received island gifts at the unveiling of the mural.
(Photo: Cook Islands News)
The mural shows an island woman holding a book with Cook Islands stories emanating from it, including the creation myth with father sky and mother earth, Rangi and Papa, being separated by their children. There’s also the story of Maui slowing down the sun.
Many plants, animals and birds are shown, among them the beautiful green and red Rimataka lorikeet, kura, signifying hope. The kura was then extinct in the Cook Islands but has since been reintroduced from French Polynesia onto the outer island of Atiu.
The voyaging traditions of Polynesians are represented by ocean-going canoes on the right side of the mural as well as a tattoo symbol of a bird which morphs into a frigate bird and then a plane, the vehicle of choice for most modern travelling Cook Islanders.
The concept of using stories flowing from the book was Jean Mason’s, (then museum curator but now librarian and curator).
Sue chose and painted images typical of Cook Islands culture, legends and history
Paints, brushes and scaffolding were all donated by local businesses.
The mural was unveiled in March 2005.

14 February 2010

Staff and volunteers 2

We have three paid staff and the rest are volunteers: four volunteers on Wednesday; one on Thursday; one Tuesday morning (from six to eight volunteers on a permanent basis).
And some fly in from far away!
One of our volunteers, Kees De boer, comes from Holland for five months of the year and Elizabeth Walsh (pictured below) usually for two months of the year.
Also Mika Fortsch (from Germany) comes two months every second year.

12 February 2010

Staff and volunteers

Elizabeth Walsh, Phil Washbourne, Sally Voss and Jean-Mason

The library and museum are both open from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Saturday and whatever time you go in you’re likely to see our wonderful volunteers as well as staff, library members and tourists.
The volunteers usually come in one or two days a week and they don’t mind getting their hands dirty! Living in a tropical island paradise is all very well but it’s a constant battle against dust and insects to keep the books and shelves clean.
Not only do we have bookworms but if you pick up one of the less frequently used volumes you might get showered with dry mud and possibly a grub or two. Mud wasps love to build nests in the spines of books!
In the photograph are volunteers Elizabeth Walsh and Phil Washbourne with staff members Sally Voss and Jean-Mason, the library and museum coordinator.

08 February 2010

Sister act

Sisters library, main entrance (Photo: Don & Lee Kappleman)

It’s good to have friends and relatives and the Cook Islands library has both!
Friends of the library include benefactors and volunteers as well as individuals who donate books, CDs, DVDs and goods for fund-raising jumble sales.
As for relatives, we’re talking about sisters.
Sisters, Oregon in fact.
Our library is sort of ‘twinned’ with Sisters, an Oregon country town with a population of about 1700 although 12,000 or so live in the surrounding area. It gets its name from the Three Sisters, mountains in the Cascade Range and it was once a logging town but nowadays the main industry is tourism.
Every July Sisters hosts the biggest outdoor quilt show in the United States (quilting is the American version of tivaivai).
On the weekend of the quilt show Sisters Library holds its annual book sale - the biggest and best book sale in the region according to the library people, and they should know.
As you can see from the picture, the library is a fabulous-looking new building.
They’ve been sending books and also a Christmas cheque to the Cook Islands for many years and we are very grateful to president Jim Anderson, treasurer Zeta Seiple and the other members of the library.
Isn’t it nice to have a big sister?

Sisters Library garden and Friends of Sisters Library board members

04 February 2010

New year, new beginnings

The library at Takamoa on a sunny February morning
Well, it's been a long time since the last post to this blog but happy new year and let's hope we manage to keep the information flowing this year.
Our friends and volunteers continue to provide a fantastic service and we would be hard pressed to cope without them. We have just finished building an outdoor lean-to, sponsored by Rotary, to be used for sculptures and stone carvings.
Donations of books continue to arrive from a variety of sources and we are able to sell duplicates and infrequently used books to raise funds and to make space for the new ones.
Books received until the end of 2009:
> Young adult books from Kathy Giuffre, sociologist from Colorado Univ, USA;
> 5 cartons of books from Santa Clarita Valley USA Rotary
> 13 cartons of books from Manukau City Libraries, Auckland;
> 203 new titles processed; 57 new titles in early Dec;
> Anuenue Canoe Club, Hawaii, donated a carton of books (as they do every year at Vaka Eiva time).