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Pa Enua schools turn trash into treasure in Sanitarium Creative Art Competition

Saturday 2 December 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Education, National, Outer Islands

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Pa Enua schools turn trash into treasure in Sanitarium Creative Art Competition
The winning Tavake bird sculpture in the Sanitarium Creative Art Schools Competition, created by Tetautua School students in Penrhyn. Front: Tepuakura Faira (left), Uruhou Solo, Nohorangi Faira. Back Row: Ungakura Faira (left) and Ruaiti Solo. APII NAPA/23112905

Students in the Pa Enua demonstrated their artistic prowess by designing sculptures from recycled Sanitarium product packaging in the Sanitarium Creative Art Schools Competition, facilitated by the Cook Islands Trading Corporation (CITC).

Hailing from the northernmost atoll of Penrhyn, Tetautua School emerged victorious, claiming the first prize of $1200 for their captivating one-metre-long “tavake” bird sculpture, which now proudly adorns the school’s foyer.

Seven schools participated in the competition including Omoka School, also in Penrhyn, the Aitutaki schools of Araura College and Apii Vaitau, Apii Enuamanu in Atiu, Apii Mangaia, and Apii Mauke, who each received $800 as consolation prizes. A total of $6000 in cash prizes was offered by Sanitarium.

The competition centred on the theme of “Te Au Manu Puapinga o Toku Matakeinanga/Enua” – the nation’s cultural theme for the year, which highlights the importance of animals and birds of their respective tribes or islands.

Jane Wichman, CITC sales manager, said the competition provided a platform for schools to express their creativity and cultural pride.

Each sculpture reflected the respective island’s cultural diversity exploring their creativity using Sanitarium packaging to represent the chosen theme.

In acknowledging the dedication and creativity of the participating schools, the project not only showcased the artistic talent in the Pa Enua, but also fostered a spirit of cultural celebration and community pride.


Penrhyn Island’s Omoka School “poe pipi” sculpture in the Sanitarium Creative Art Schools Competition. APII NAPA/23112907

The sculptures stand as lasting symbols of the vibrant artistic spirit thriving in the Pa Enua educational institutions.

Apii Napa, principal of both Penrhyn Schools – Omoka and Tetautua, said the unique competition offered the opportunity to give back to a corporation that had been generous to both their schools, “CITC has been generous in sponsoring our annual prize giving awards.”

She said Omoka and Tetautua schools embarked on the planning and construction of their sculptures during Term 3, reaching out to homes for the collection of Sanitarium packaging.

“As you can see, yes we do get to eat Weetbix and cereal here in the north,” said Napa.

Tetautua School had the expertise of teacher aide Raewyn Biggs Taia, a renowned artist in Cairns, Australia, to assist with their sculpture.

Napa explained that the tavake bird is featured on the Tetautua School monogram, which is why it was chosen for the sculpture.

Interwoven mesh and wire were expertly crafted to bring the tavake sculpture to life, a collaborative effort involving all 10 students and their dedicated teachers, Moehano Takai and Raewyn Taia.

Napa said she was both proud and overwhelmed that Tetautua School, the smallest school in the Pa Enua, had won best sculpture, and that Omoka School was recognised alongside the other schools from the south.

“I’m humble, proud and grateful since Penrhyn schools were the only entries from the north.

“For us this was also our way of giving back to a generous sponsor.

“It is important to make connections and build relationships through networks with these industries that support school’s right around our country,” she said.

Tetautua School’s sculpture pays homage to the abundant “tavake” seabirds found in their island, particularly in the uninhabited motu surrounding Penrhyn.

Recognised by its red tail, these bird’s nest and thrive in the vast lagoon, and are the inspiration of their monogram and motto: ‘Kia Mau te Serenga’ (to hold on firmly) and ‘Kia Mau te Napenga’ (hold with all your might and never let go).

Omoka School’s sculpture the “poe pipi” also features on their school monogram.

“Poe pipi is a beautiful gem found in Penrhyn waters and adorned by all Tongareva men and women,” said Napa.

With an enrolment of 52 students, all senior students from Years 7 to 10 at Omoka School contributed to the tavake project.

Omoka School had more recycled resources since Napa had kept all their Sanitarium breakfast packaging from 2021, repurposing some to hold resources such as school journals.

“However, this competition got the best out of these boxes and with my senior students, we were able to create our sculpture in a week.”

The island of Aitutaki had two schools, Apii Vaitau and Araura College, taking part in the project.

Apii Vaitau Primary with a roll number of 75, highlighted the kuramo’o bird also known as the Blue Nun which is unique to Aitutaki.

The kuramo’o has vibrant colours which resemble a nun's outfit, but in shades of blue.

It is often found in banana, coconut, and guava trees, and delights in feasting on coconut flowers and banana nectar.

Araura College with a roll number of 221, chose the pig and kota’a to represent their island, highlighting the cultural significance of these animals in various ceremonial events.

Pigs play a vital role in celebrations like birthdays and weddings, while the kota’a serves as an environmental indicator, signalling weather changes and abundant fish in the lagoon.

Atiu’s Apii Enuamanu with a roll number 87 crafted their “Atiu Bird” sculptures by repurposing discarded Sanitarium items like soy milk caps and Weetbix cartons.

The sculpture connects to Atiuan traditions and culture, focussing on the preservation of the island’s bird species.

Under the guidance Sera Naiyaga and the teacher assistants, the Year 7-8 pupils brought to life Atiu’s emblematic birds.

Symbolising bravery, tradition, and culture, the sculpture reflects Atiu’s identity as the “Island of Birds”, also emphasising environmental preservation through creative recycling.

The kopeka (Atiu Swiftlet) was crafted by Melvina Tamata, Nadia Kura, and Kerekere Samuels; the ngotare bird was created by Jaml Tipoki, Matamanea, Kamel Matapakia and Keziah Wichman; and the pigeon bird project was brought to life by Year 7 students Tumaru, Logan Etches, and Aleccia Mokoroa.

Mangaia School, which has a roll number of 131 students, featured a sculpture of local free-range chickens celebrating their maintenance-free nature, self-sufficiency, and abundance on the island.

The artwork underscores the practicality and accessibility of local chickens compared to commercially available options.

Apii Mauke with a roll number 46 chose a “boar” as their important animal, reflecting its integral role in the traditional investiture of chiefs on the island.

The boar signifies celebration and is a central element in the island’s feasts and gatherings, showcasing its cultural significance in Mauke’s traditions.