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Te Arerenga: What running an artist residency in Rarotonga taught me

In 2015, my husband Sam Thomas and I opened the doors to our newly built beach shacks on the west side beach of Arorangi, Rarotonga to our first Artist-in-residence. Two years later, I reflect on the learning curves that running this project has taught me, and all of the unexpected learnings that came with inheriting land through polynesian blood ties that have shifted and changed my life path.

Some of these learning curves have been funny, tough, and eye opening. For example, like most pacific people in New Zealand my grandparents came to New Zealand (Ponsonby, Auckland to be specific) to give their children, grandchildren and themselves better job opportunities and education. Today, as a young 'New Zealander' with a university education, I cannot afford to own a home in Ponsonby. In fact, within just two generations my grandmother will watch me go back to Rarotonga to be able to afford to own my first home.

In this talk, I will examine all of the learnings just like this one, that this project has taught me and how it has shaped my research. I will discuss the challenges, and parts of my own identity and life that had been previously unexamined as I chose the area to focus my research (The cost of tertiary education, and the time and dedication invested does not lend itself to a light decision for young people today) and why after all of this I chose to study a Master of Cultural and Creative practice.


Pouarii is a New Zealand born Cook Islander. For the past two years she has run Te Arerenga an independently owned and operated artist residency based in Rarotonga. She is currently completing a Master of Cultural and Creative Practice at AUT where her research looks at sustainable business models for creative industries within the Pacific, in particular the Cook Islands and Niue through their unique relationship to New Zealand.