The visit here left her with a lasting and positive impression of the Pacific and she made a promise to herself then that she would return to teach.
As an educator, Dr Bull specialised in the visual arts, teaching from Year One through to Year 13.
Four years ago she contacted the Cook Islands Ministry of Education’s learning and teaching director, Ina Herrmann and proposed a project that would compare and contrast the arts and crafts of students here in the Cook Islands with that of arts students in Germany.
The idea was to explore the cultural differences and similarities and in essence, the project was about cultural exchange.
Visual artist and local educator Ian George played a vital role in facilitating the project in the Cook Islands. He and Dr Bull began with 11 schools on Rarotonga before moving on to the Pa Enua - Aitutaki, Mangaia, Tongareva, Rakahanga and Manihiki.
Barbara worked with the students to explore several themes, ranging from, “What makes me happy on my island?” to “What does a German city look like?”
She took with her all the art equipment and resources she needed. Some she brought with her and the rest was supplied by the Ministry of Education. The ministry also funded some of her travel to the Pa Enua.
The project’s strong literacy component required the students to explain and produce a small story about their work in their first language, which was then translated into German.
“It is interesting to note the high number of students who wrote in Maori,” says George.
The students’ works were then collected and collated by Barbara and taken back to Germany where the work is on display at the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg. If financial support is available, the works will also be exhibited in New Zealand.
Once the shows are over, the aim is to bring the works back to the Cook Islands where they will be returned to the students.
While putting the show together Barbara produced a catalogue that described the process; with photographs of the students’ works, the students themselves and their schools and communities.
Public reaction to the book, titled “Drawings, Paintings, and Stories by Children from the Cook Islands/South Pacific,” has been excellent and the catalogue has been translated from German into English and in some parts, Maori.
“Drawings, Paintings, and Stories by Children from the Cook Islands/South Pacific,” makes a great addition to a Cook Islands arts and crafts collection. At present, the Ministry of Education has just two copies, but ample supplies will arrive soon.
The project was funded by the German government, the Cook Islands Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand-NZAID and the German Embassy in Wellington).