News 26 Nov 2018
Te Ara – the Cook Islands Museum of Cultural Enterprise is a business incubator that fosters greater economic self-determination for Cook Islands people. Co-founder Stan Wolfgramma tells PCF how Te Ara Museum is the first of its kind in the Pacific, working in association with its local and regional development partners to provide commercial and cultural support to safeguard the future of the island nation.
Stan Wolfgramm is no stranger to the New Zealand Pacific scene, the Tongan/Cook Islander cultural entrepreneur is the brainchild of Drum Productions, television show “Pacific Beat Street” and the iconic Westfield Style Pasifika fashion event which ran for 15 years.
After developing and producing many initiatives, that showcased the vibrancy and beauty of Pacific cultures in Aotearoa, Stan is now based in the Cook Islands focusing on strengthening the ties between the Pacific diaspora and the region.
His latest project, Te Ara – the Cook Islands Museum of Cultural Enterprise is a business incubator that fosters greater economic self-determination for Cook Islands people.
The museum was officially opened last year, and Stan says Te Ara Museum is the first of its kind in the Pacific
“Te Ara focuses on SME capacity building, using culture and the tourist industry as key drivers for sustainable enterprise,” he says.
By supporting only local-made products Stan says they safeguard local jobs, feed local families, preserve local culture, use local resources and reduce import waste while protecting the local environment.
“The initiative came out of looking at the region and at the issues in the region around trade deficits.
“The model is unique, nothing like it exists in the Pacific, to tell you the truth we couldn’t find anything exactly like it anywhere.”
Tourists and visitors alike cannot miss Te Ara Museum located in Muri, Rarotonga. Described as ‘eye-catching’, the walls outside is covered in paintings of big, bright colourful hibiscuses. Inside, the museum are classrooms dedicated to learning about sustainable businesses which is then put into practice in Te Ara’s retail space. The museum also includes a world-class exhibition of the history of the Cook Islands with an environmental focus on ocean conservation.
“Te Ara is also innovative in that it is the only building on the island completely wired with fibre optic cable as we see the future in data and shared learning,” explains Stan.
“We are also a model for environmental sustainability as take all our water off the roof. Our septic waste goes through a three-stage system that eventually sees all regenerated water pass to a taro patch garden.
“Plastic is a major issue, so we use no plastic lining, sell no plastic bottles and offer free filtered water from our own station to encourage refilling and recycling plastic bottles.”
Stan says running Te Ara Museum alongside business partner, Julie Smith is a result of their own blood, sweat and tears receiving no funding at all.
“We are not another statistic of failed aid development project mainly because we didn’t get any aid. But now we are a catalyst for growth.”
“Te Ara has now been open for 20 months. We are paying all our bills, making a profit and developing new products. Our tourist visitor numbers have increased as we increase our profile”
“We are educating not just our clients about sustainable business and not just our visitors that we are more than just the beach and the booze bus but we are also educating our kids about their history and the potential of their collective Pacific Islands and families abroad.”
Looking towards the future, Stan is working on another which he hopes will encourage more Pacific people to lend their voices on issues relevant to the region.
“Living in the Pacific has given me greater insight to the global conversation of climate change and ocean conservation. It has also given me insight of the need for Pacific people to have their own voice in this global conversation.
“To this end I have developed a concept titled: Moana Pasifika – A collection of the greatest Pacific cultural icons in support of an ocean in crisis – The Pacific."
The project is an opportunity to bring Pacific people together with the likes of museums around the world to breathe life into Pacific artefacts, to give voice to a new Pacific generation who show concerns of our ocean in crisis.
“In my capacity as the owner of Drum Productions which has been one of the Pacific’s most successful and independently owned company, we have the expertise to bring Moana Pasifika to fruition.”