Olivia Spencer Bower

England / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1905, d.1982

Outrigger Canoe, Samoa

  • 1960
  • Watercolour
  • Purchased with assistance from the Friends of Robert McDougall Art Gallery, 1999
  • 420 x 530mm
  • 99/04

Olivia Spencer Bower took a three-month break in the Pacific after the death of her mother in 1960. Travelling by air, she visited Tahiti and the Society Islands before heading to Samoa and Fiji. Writing to her brother from an upmarket beach hotel on Viti Levu, she recalled “some mighty rough trips in tiny boats” in Bora Bora, “being hours outside the reef […] wet to the skin & hanging on”. In Samoa, she noted “seventy churches in forty miles – a missionary’s paradise anyway – all denominations competing”. In Fiji she joined a local wedding with “another European […] We had the Kava ceremony & after I had given my present I received a speech & the present of a mat.”

(Te Wheke, 2020)

Exhibition History