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Cook Islands photo wows Europe


A simple photograph can speak a thousand words and thats exactly what was done when a Cook Island photograph was chosen and entered into a prestigeous worldwide PR annual photography competition in Germany.

This hilarious and heartwarming picture was selected in the Top 10 photographs in the tourism category and exhibited the qualities that the world loves about the Cook Islands; a simple, stressfree and carefree country far removed from its busy counterparts and clearly defined the Cook Islands as an amazing place to travel for all those ready for a break from the crowded rush of the city.

The success story of Cook Islands art


Just in case someone hasn’t noticed yet: art is booming here in the Cook Islands. Our many overseas visitors are certainly partly responsible for this, but there are other reasons why our different art forms are thriving.

All over the world, art has flourished most in cultures that enjoyed prosperity: Egypt, China, Greece, Roman Empire, during the Renaissance, etc. In the Pacific, the art of different cultures have developed highest in communities that were socially well organized and without threat from neighbors. The special status of Ta’unga, artists and medicine makers, also indicates that they worked under a certain protection and were often exempt from other work in the community.

Pacific Renaissance

The Pacific Arts Festivals show how art in the region is thriving, maybe like never before. In the last 25 years, we have witnessed Cook Islands dancing develop to an increasingly varied art form, with very high standards, which will be demonstrated, and no doubt pushed further again, at the coming Te Mire Kapa (Dancer of the Year Competition).

Carving has also been revived, traditional sculpture has been rediscovered and new designs are more and more intricate and original. Tattooing is popular again and here too, new patterns have evolved.

(Judith Kunzle - Female Drum Dancer, 2010)

Textile art has come a long way since the early tapa costumes and designs, and it is now one of the most high-profile art forms in the Cook Islands. Our fashion designs are playing an important role in the Pacific, and last year a Tivaevae exhibition was held in Europe.

(Andrea Eimke - Equilibrium, 2009)

The new art form

But of all the art forms practiced in the Cook Islands, painting has developed the most. Thirty years ago you could have counted the local artists on one hand, including the few papa’a (residents of European decent) artists. A USP workshop in 1984 encouraged several artists who were among the first to take painting seriously and who are still working as artists today. In another USP workshop in 1996, established artists Pilioko and Michoutouchkine from Vanuatu told the local and resident artists to get “cracking”, many of them did, and a few never stopped.

Over the last 15 years, the local visual arts were fertilized by several Cook Islands artists with art education returning from New Zealand and Australia. Together with dynamic new galleries on Rarotonga, they developed their ideas and created a vigorous art scene, encouraging several young artists to take up art as a career.

Although many elements of the contemporary art works are based on traditional images and symbols, painting in the Cook Islands is a young art form, which has emerged recently. Even so, Cook Islands painting has been gaining respect and attention overseas.

However it is the local patronage and support that has allowed it to gather momentum in the first place.

Without the interest of the public, the backing and substantial encouragement of local art lovers and members of the business community, few artists would have had the opportunity and courage to continue with the development of their work.

Our artists “talk” about Cook Island life, to each other and our visitors. They comment on what's happening, research traditional icons and create new visual languages to show and share their imagination, feelings and ideas.

( Tim Buchanan - Band, 2004)

Article by ― Judith Kunzlé