Bringing back kids’ art with love from Germany

Thursday October 18, 2018 Written by Published in Education
Barbara Bull loves teaching art with Cook Islands children. 18101703 Barbara Bull loves teaching art with Cook Islands children. 18101703

Barbara Bull loves the Cook Islands and particularly loves the children of the islands.

The retired art teacher from Germany is back on Rarotonga on a special mission – to return hundreds of pieces of art to school children.

The artworks have been exhibited in Hamburg’s Museum of Ethnology in what Bull describes as a “very, very successful” show.

“It was supposed to go for four months but, at the end, it was extended twice because the (German) students were so interested and so were adult visitors,” she said.

“So it lasted 11 months.”

Bull’s passion began in 2013-14 when she came to the Cook Islands for nine months to do a visual arts project in schools.

“I went to Rakahanga, Manihiki, Mangaia, Atiu and Rarotonga.

“I was working with 450 students and they produced 650 artworks.”

She said: “I love the people and I love the culture. And I’m always interested in different cultures.

“I was a secondary school art teacher in Germany and when I retired I wondered what I would do and so it is a private project working with students.

“The Cook Islands are not known in the north of Germany and so I tried to encourage the students here to tell about their past, present and future in pictures.

“Every picture goes together with a story explained by the student ... I haven’t changed these at all.

“And so I let the German students know about young people who are living at the other end of the world on these small islands.

“And that they are people and what they are thinking of the future and their daily lives.”

Bull said one of her aims was to “make these kids proud about themselves and to tell them that Germany students were interested in them”.

“When I left the students here I promised to bring back the artworks and that is the reason I am here now to deliver them to the schools.

“They are excited to see their work again.

“I have also published a book about the project and when they saw themselves in the book they were without words. They didn’t know what to say.”

Some of the children’s artworks are on display at the National Museum. There are wood blocks and prints taken from them as well as drawings.

“We have chosen the themes of design and dancing for this museum because the Ministry of Culture says these fit very well into the exhibition.”

Museum Officer Susan Love de Miguel said: “We’d just like to let everyone know that the exhibition is running to the end of November and we’d like to encourage the schools to come and have a look before we take it down.

“These are works that have been exhibited in Germany. So the families need to take the opportunity of seeing how their children’s work made it all that way.”

So what is Bull’s next project?

“I don’t know if I will have one more. I am collecting legends and myths from cultures all over the world and wherever I am staying I like to go to the schools and work with the kids on those themes. “They give me the stories and the pictures. Maybe I will publish a book of stories and legends from all over the world and I have a start in the Cook Islands now.”

Bull says sometimes the roots of a culture get lost.

“A lot of students have to ask their parents and grandparents about legends and so they learn a little bit more about their roots ... that’s very important.

“At the beginning of my book they gave me more than their artworks and I had the wish that they wouldn’t lose their roots. It is important to know your roots otherwise you get lost in life.

“And that’s one of my very big reasons for doing the project - to make the kids here proud. They don’t know what they are able to be, what they can do. They haven’t known they were able to do such great artworks.

“I noticed they are very, very friendly and shy and they are not conscious about that themselves.

“I wanted to make them more confident … make them stronger.

She said: “They are very creative and they love to draw and paint especially in primary schools. They told me they would like to do more artworks. It makes them so happy.”

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