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11 November 2022

Artist gifts Cook Islands themed collection to university

Saturday 2 March 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Art, Features

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Artist gifts Cook Islands themed collection to university
Dr Debi Futter-Puati, left, received the collection from artist Jean Loomis, teary eyed and grateful. CANDICE LUKE/ 24030160

University of South Pacific’s Rarotonga campus has received a donation of 11 screen printed original works by New Zealand-based artist Jean Loomis.

“I thought they needed to come home,” says Loomis, who travelled to Rarotonga to hand deliver the collection. 

Featuring depictions of the god Tangaroa, themes and colours reminiscent of the vibrant scenes of Auckland’s Aitutaki tere parties, and stories of Cook Islanders experiences in the city, Loomis shows a deep reverence for Pacific cultures. 

Her love for Cook Islands started 3000 kilometres away in central Auckland, in the 1970s. 

“We lived in the inner city, Ponsonby, and our neighbours on one side were Cook Islanders. They were very kind to me,” says the 81-year-old former art teacher. 

Loomis got to know the family well. One of their teenage girls at the time, Tuaine Grieg, features in the painting titled “Where are we going?” 

“She was debating in her head, ‘who am I? What am I going to do?’ and you can see that in her face.”

Loomis and her family were involved with Aitutaki Enua group, and she enjoyed the tere parties hosted in Auckland. 

“It was from that experience that these (art works) grew. Like ‘The Feast of Welcome’.”

She learned histories like the myths of Ru, and observed as Tāmaki Makaurau became more ethnically diverse. 

“Searching For A New Land” illustrates the migration of Pacific islanders to Aotearoa between the 1970s and 1990s. 

Loomis creates her art from photographs and drawings of her subjects. The pieces are screen prints, a process that is “quite time consuming”. 

The collection was exhibited in Auckland in the early 80s, and now USP Cook Islands Campus is preparing to install the works where they can be appreciated by the people they portray. 

Campus director Dr Debi Futter-Puati was deeply honoured to receive the collection on behalf of the university.  

“It’s an incredibly generous gift. It’s a boost for our collection because people come here just to look at our art.”