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.