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Sharing soapmaking skills with fellow Cook Islanders

Monday 27 March 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Art, Features, Go Local

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Sharing soapmaking skills with fellow Cook Islanders
Sophia Jensen-Johnstone, fifth from left, with the Aitutaki participants. SUPPLIED/23032418

Sophia Jensen-Johnstone loves challenges and always looks for new activities to venture into. Her latest craze is soapmaking – a skill she is now sharing with interested Cook Islanders.

About 10 years ago, one of Jensen-Johnstone’s family members amazed her with his soapmaking skills and products. This got her into learning and developing her own soap products.

“I was in New Zealand on holiday, we met up with family and one of the family members had a soap business,” shares Jensen-Johnstone.

“He showed me how he created it and all the different soaps he had made and sold. I was just wowed seeing so many shapes, sizes, colours, and that was it – I was hooked.”

Jensen-Johnstone then returned to Australia and started making soap.

It took her a few years to master it and turn it into a business.
“I sold it at markets, to family, friends, online, I even had it in shops. It was a really good business.”

And now the 34-year-old Cook Islander has returned home to share her soapmaking skills with her people.

Jensen-Johnstone says her great-grandmother Nuka Nuka Kainuku is from the Cook Islands. She is the granddaughter of Te-Pori Cowan and daughter of Margaret Merritt.

Born and raised in New Zealand in a small town called Raetihi, Jensen-Johnstone moved to Melbourne, Australia when she was 20 years old where she met her husband, Luke.


Sophia Jensen-Johnstone with her family. SUPPLIED/23032426

They have a six-year-old daughter Isla-jade.

They recently moved to Rarotonga from Melbourne to build their life and future on her mother’s land.
“To us it’s such a privilege to be a Cook Islander and I thank all my ancestors for this opportunity and the land they have provided us. This place has taught me a lot and keeps me grounded,” says Jensen-Johnstone.

“I am excited for what Rarotonga has to offer us and I cannot wait to learn more about my culture here.”
Jensen-Johnstone has introduced soapmaking classes for those interested and has had more than 200 people reach out to her for the class. She was recently in Aitutaki conducting a class where she acknowledged those who organised the free community event to learn the skill of soapmaking.

Explaining the concept of soapmaking classes, she says: “I have mastered making soap, I don’t need to keep making soap. For me, when I know I can’t go further in one thing, I am one to move onto the next thing. I always love a new challenge.”


Soap products. SUPPLIED/23032423

“This is the reason why I am introducing soapmaking to Rarotonga, because it’s a new challenge.
“It brings more confidence out in me to speak in front of a group of people.”

Jensen-Johnstone says it is also a way of meeting new people as she has just moved to the island.
“I am actually very excited to teach everyone the knowledge I know. We all need soap. It’s an everyday thing we use in our life.
“Soap is on the high price here in Rarotonga, if I could save money in everyone’s shopping cart, then that’s a win for me.”

Those interested in soapmaking can contact her on +68276770.