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Polynesian Resource Center

Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Polynesian Art and Culture

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Beginners Guide to Polynesia – Rarotonga and the Southern Cook Islands

Beginners Guide to Polynesia – Rarotonga and the Southern Cook Islands

My abiding memory of Cook Islanders which many visits has never altered, is of a happy, friendly bunch of  lotus eaters in Paradise. There are 13,000 odd Cook Islanders Islands that make up the Southern Cooks but the Cooks actually extend 1500 kilometres to the small islands to the north. It is impossible not to like Cook Islanders they are so warm and friendly. They are relaxed people and enjoy life; Samoans whom I also like very much can be a little serious, whereas you get the feeling with Cook Islanders would not know what the word serious meant.

Beginners Guide to Polynesia – Western Samoa

Beginners Guide to Polynesia – Western Samoa

Samoa and Tonga are the most traditional societies in Polynesia perhaps because they were the oldest being settled seperate identities for three thousand years. The Samoans have a term Fa'a Samoa which literally means 'the Samoan way', which sums up Samoan attitude and pride in their ways and their values. This is a conservative society and that is a fact not an implied critiizm. It fact Fa'a Samoa has helped Samoans make successes of themselves from Auckland in New Zealand to West Los Angeles in the States, in areas as diverse as NFL football were 40% of playeres are now Samoan to the opera stage in London.

Beginners Guide to Polynesia – The Three Islands of New Zealand

Beginners Guide to Polynesia – The Three Islands of New Zealand

New Zealand has more in common with Hawaii that the rest of Polynesia with the Maori and Moriori population being in the minority. The majority being English, Irish and Scottish, a growing Asian population mainly Chinese, a small Indian community and a healthy Polynesian population from other islands mainly Samoan, Tongan and Cook Islands. Auckland is therefore regarded as the largest Polynesian city on the planet. The largest Maori population is in the North Island which mirrors the precontact statistics. Maori culture is strong and assertive and cross cultural understanding fairly good and mainly respectful. New Zealand is unusual for having a living legal document dating back to 1840 governing the legal rights of its Maori population and despite a painful and long running dispute this treaty is codified firmly into law. Loss of land still affects Maori negatively and is in stark contrast to other purely Polynesian States with only Hawaii worse in this regard. There are signs that the economic prospects of Maori are improving but off a low base.

Book Review: The Discovery of Aotearoa by Jeff Evans, 1998 revised copy supplied

Book Review: The Discovery of Aotearoa by Jeff Evans, 1998 revised copy supplied

This little book is one of the clearest explanations of Polynesian Navigation, especially if like me the finer principles of navigation made your head ache. It also includes a description of Greg Whakataka-Brightwell's building and sailing of the traditional double hulled waka; Hawaiki-nui from Tahiti to New Zealand in 1985. Loads of good simple drawings and clear explainations help the reader to come to grips with what can be a complicated and difficult subject. My only quibble is the sections relating to Maori Lore for descriptions of the earliest discoveries of New Zealand.

Book Review: The World Until Yesterday; Jared Diamond

Book Review: The World Until Yesterday; Jared Diamond

Diamond's theme is What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? It is not a great book, unlike his brilliant Guns,Germs and Steel, but it contains many ideas and hints worth us pursuing. Basically Diamond looks at what we could learn by studing the social approaches of indegenous people in the areas conflict resolution, treatment of the elderly, childcare and a host of other subjects. I suppose it does deserve that damned with faint praise description of Popular Science, but those that use such terms give us the heads up that we are dealing with “experts” jealous of their rights to speak for their fields.

Book Review: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Book Review: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1998, it won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book. A documentary based on the book, and produced by the National Geographic Society, was broadcast on PBS in July 2005.

Book Review: Polynesia: The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesian Art

Book Review: Polynesia: The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesian Art

Mark Blackburn started collecting Polynesian Art thirty years ago, and since then he and his wife Carolyn have built an extensive collection. It is hard to know the progress of this collection, we do not know what past through the collector's hands, what they saw but did not buy and quite frankly how much money they had available to purchase items. This is one of the weaknesses of the book, the lack of personal back story that would have put the collection into context. The Blackburn's friend Adrienne Kaeppler wrote the text and she is a very well published authority on Polynesian Art, but in a small section on Hawaiian calabashes, Mark Blackburn reveals himself as an interesting and knowledgable writer.

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