50 years of Cook Islands Creative Writing

Let’s keep to the “book” theme from the Cook Islands…

Last week the Cook Islands News published an article about a new anthology of Cook Islands short stories and poems, which was launched at the University of South Pacific (USP) Cook Islands.

The new book titled “MANA – 50 years of Cook Islands Creative writing in English and Cook Islands Maori” celebrates the role of Dr Marjorie Crocombe in generating the “first wave” of post-colonial writing in the Pacific. It also celebrates the 50th anniversary of USP and the university’s role in supporting Pacific writing and publishing.

Part one of the anthology comprises writings by Cook Islanders published by the University of South Pacific from 1974 – 2010. Part two features new Cook Islands writing 2010 – 2018. The introduction by Cook Islands scholar Emma Emily Ngakuravaru Powell provides a survey of Cook Islands writing from 1968 – 2018. The book is illustrated with 35 watercolors by artist Joan Gragg.

The book launch included readings from the anthology by six of the 20 Cook Islands writers represented in the anthology – Makiuti Tongia, Florence Syme-Buchanan, Jon Jonassen, Vaine Rasmussen-Wichman, Mike Tavioni and Marianna Powell, who read her poem “Sonde”, verses written in Palmerston-English. Author Lynnsay Francis launched the book.

Dr Marjorie Crocombe recounted her efforts, following establishment of the university in 1968 to create its “soul” through Pacific writing. With a number of other writers, she established the South Pacific Creative Arts Society (SPACS) and its journal “Mana”. Those who received encouragement and support from SPACS included noted poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, born in Tongareva, and the renowned Samoan author Albert Wendt who sent the following message to the launch:

 “Marjorie – thank you for all the dedicated and magnificent work you have done all these years for the development of our arts and cultures. Thank you and Ron (the late Professor Ron Crocombe) for all the love and help and friendship and support you’ve given me and my family. Congratulations on this great honor. Alolofa atu, Al and Reina.”

New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall provided the vote of thanks, noting that the book brought together a body of Cook Islands literature that will be a source of inspiration to – and a suitable subject of study for – generations of Cook Islands school and university students.


Sunset- Rarotonga, Cook Islands

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