Putahi Ono-Rarotonga, Cook Islands
In May 2018, The Cook Islands hosted Putahi Ono.
Just under a year after Putahi Rima in Papeete, would see the next Putahi held on the island of Rarotonga.
The organizing committee of two consisted of Shane Andrew and myself (Stormy Kara) we were assisted by local artists, a few sponsors and enthusiasts who all helped to pull off a successful 2 week long event.
Bergman Gallery, Toki, Pacific Ink and Bluesky Cook Islands were the amazing sponsors who came on board.
Both exhibitions were held at Bergman Gallery Internet access and sim cards were sponsored by Bluesky Cook Islands to allow our artist communications back home.
We started with the early arrival of Tevita, from Tonga, Georgia and Midi part of the Aotearoa delegation and Francesia from New Caledonia.
Once we moved into the Atiu Hostel arrivals from Hawaii, Aotearoa and Tahiti flooded in. I was happening, there was no turning back after that.
We started by collecting everyone’s pieces for the first exhibition held at Bergman Gallery. If you have ever tried to organize 31 artists from 6 different countries with 4 different languages spoken into collecting exhibition pieces that are hang ready with adjacent tags and information then you may feel the pain.
It all came together as well as it could and we dropped everything off with the staff to get it all ready.
We began workshops and set up the workstations, all our beautiful timber was sponsored by Bakers tree services. Some of the most drool worthy native timbers on Rarotonga I’d been blessed to work with. This would be used for miniature vaka/waka/va’a/canoes from the different delegations excluding Tonga, as they did not bring a wood carver. The brief was given to each head of delegation to produce a vaka as the theme for our Putahi was our connections through Te Moananui o kiva.
The woodcarving was mostly done on the ground floor outside (Chainsaw, grinder, sanding and anything messy) the main hall was used for eating and presentations. The second level had the pearl shell carving set up and also space for the weavers. On the third level was the painting studio and rooftop was a mixture of all 3 levels, pending weather.
Throughout the two weeks we also hosted various presentations by our local and visiting artists. Also a very important presentation on climate change given by Dr Teina Rongo, which the question was posed “What as artists can we do to help fight climate change?”
Another notable difference for us was the inclusion of school visits. We had each delegation visit some of the schools on the island and deliver the message of a pathway as a full time artist.
Shane had worked on large-scale paintings, painted on repurposed church shutters and collaborated pieces with other artists.
Raniera had carved a shell pendant and collaborated with Nanave Taime, one of our local rito weavers from Tongareva to create a beautiful piece.
I had worked on a couple of carved pieces, a pate (drum) and a Taro leaf inspired kumete. The real highlight was being able to work with Uenuku Hawira and learn my way around a chainsaw and understanding some of its capabilities.
Another personal highlight was being able to work on the Cook Islands Vaka miniature with my uncle. We based ours on the Takitumu, which was an Alia style vaka. I think in the future we will produce more and use them to educate the youth on different traditional styles.
The students from Tahiti and their teachers worked tirelessly on their vaka, hand weaving their sail from 1mm pieces of Pandanas and making the va’a to scale so much so they were able to test it out on the water just outside of Trader Jacks. Patrice also recalled his boat making abilities to produce an outrigger style canoe for New Caledonia. The Aotearoa went with a different artistic spin on things and had full hand carved wood sails, which were also painted.
My ohana from Hawaii, pushed past what they thought was capabilities and delivered a beautiful tribute to Hokulea.
On one of our free Sundays we took everyone around to see the island thanks to Teariki. Finishing with an umu kai on Aroa beach.
The closing exhibition was again held at Bergman Gallery, which showcased all new works created over the last two weeks with the highlight being the Miniature Vaka.
As the end drew near we slowly had to start saying goodbye to our guests, Uenuku, Viri, Kahua, Tane and Kenya all leaving before the closing ceremony.
But not before handing over the tohu to Hawaii to host the next gathering in 2020.
I personally cannot wait, in all likelihood it will be held on Hawaii Island which has become like a second home for me. I intend to go and assist Lehua and her committee with what ever they may need to host this event for their first time.