USP Cook Islands Campus

Cook Islands Campus

Cook Islands Art & Architecture


Enjoying the book launch at USP on Thursday night were Akaiti Puna, New Zealand High Commissioner Nick Hurley and his wife Christine, and Prime Minister Henry Puna. PHOTOS: Karen Scott, Cook Islands News, 16031751



A 490 page book on Cook Islands Art and Architecture was launched by the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands and the His Excellency the New Zealand High Commissioner at a ceremony on Thursday 17 March at USP Cook Islands. 


The richly illustrated book, comprising 21 chapters written by Cook Islands artists, choreographers, performers and scholars, describes the vibrancy of local dance, drumming, fashion, painting, quilting, carving, weaving, tapa making, theatre, and other creative activities. It is edited and introduced by USP Campus Director Rod Dixon together with Dr. Linda Crowl and Dr. Marjorie Crocombe.


The book provides compelling evidence of Cook Islands visual and performance art as essentially collaborative endeavors, often inspired by the vision of a single ta'unga or expert, but elaborated through the collective improvisation of artists or performers who at the same time observe a highly complex, delicate and critical sense for ensemble. Significantly, improvisation and innovation may come from any member of the group ensuring that Cook Islands art retains a strong 'grass-roots' enthusiasm, while undergoing constant reinvention and renewal.


Speaking at the launch the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Hon. Henry Puna noted the importance of collective activity in Cook Islands culture, society and economy.  The production of imene, dance performance, drum music, nuku, tivaivai, canoe building, the building of churches, and much traditional economic activity are all achieved collaboratively by groups not by individuals. The group is critical to Cook Islands culture, art, economy  and society. Yet it is the group  - the core building block of Cook Islands society - which is most threatened by the increasing emphasis on individualism in western society and in development policy generally. He spoke of his desire to see Cook Islands society move from this new trend towards individuality to the more traditional concepts of family, community and “neighbourliness.” 


His Excellency the New Zealand High Commissioner Mr. Nick Hurley said even though he had not been able to be part of the book, in that he was no artist, it had been his privilege, on behalf of the New Zealand High Commission, to contribute funding to enable the book to be published. He made particular mention of a section of the book about Cook Islands coral architecture and how delighted he was to see many of the old coral buildings and walls around the island being restored. He said it was fortunate that there were still people around with the skills to carry out this work, and described how he had organised restoration of coral walls at the High Commmisioner’s residence at Ngatipa.


The final speaker for the evening was Dr. Marjorie Crocombe who took the opportunity to issue a challenge to the Prime Minister to help preserve the Cook Islands Maori language by funding half a teacher’s salary at USP. She said this would fulfill her dream of providing Te Reo Maori language courses at University level, starting in the first semester of 2017. The Prime Minister was up for the challenge and gave his approval.


Chair of the USP Advisory Committee, Rev. Tevai Matapo, OBE ended the formal part of the evening by inviting Pastor Ngarima George to say a closing prayer and give thanks for a light supper.


Cook Islands Art & Architecture has a first edition run of 100 copies and costs $100.00.  With the first print run almost sold out, plans exist for a second edition. A print on demand copy is available at


 “This book will become a taonga (treasure) for the people of the Pacific.” – Karen Scott, Cook Islands News.

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Page updated: Thursday, August 17, 2017
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