Renowned veteran artist Tina Rimmer passed away at 4.45pm on Wednesday, two months short of her 100th birthday.
She became the first woman education officer in 1949 and made an impact on the lives of many Sabahans, particularly indigenous people, through oil paintings and sketches long after her retirement in 1974.
Born Christina Lewin on 1st August 1917 during the height of the First World War, she arrived in then Jesselton in 1949 after graduating from the University of London, among others.
She was one of the original lecturers at Kent Teacher’s Training College in Tuaran in 1951 and later taught at Siew Ching Chinese School and Saint Dominic’s secondary school, both in Lahad Datu.
Tina married Bert Rimmer, a planter in Lahad Datu in 1959 and they settled in a farm where she learned to rear cattle and planting fruits.
They later moved to Tamparuli in 1974 where they had a place by the riverside near the old Tamparuli bridge.
In 1990, several years after Bert died, Tina moved to a house in Taman Orchid, Likas, and eventually placed in an old folk’s home in Papar.
Tina was famous for her drawings and paintings on life in Sabah. She used her talent to document scenes from various localities of Sabah, the state that she called home. Her other favourite subjects were portraits and animals.
Many of her paintings are in the Sabah Art Gallery and private collections. Until several years ago, she used to cheer patients at the Palliative Care Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she drew portraits of terminal patients and presented those drawings, which were mainly done with pastel colour, to the patients’ family members.
Palliative Care Association of Kota Kinabalu (PCAKK) President Matron Morna Chua said she was the first artist to hold a solo exhibition at the Sabah Art Gallery when it opened in 1984. Most of her drawings are of people she saw in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) and at the Tamparuli Tamu, among other favourite places.
“Tina was also an active member of the Palliative Care Association since 1995 bringing joy to many patients by drawing their portraits for the family. We at the Palliative Care Unit and the Association will miss her dearly,” Matron Chua said.
The prolific artist had made sketches for over 500 patients at the PCAKK Day Care Centre over many years, according to Datin Dr Molly Mathew, a close friend.
In July 2015, she launched her memoir – A Life on Two Islands – at a private function.
It traced Tina’s life in the United Kingdom and British North Borneo.
When interviewed on her 98th birthday, Tina said:
“I have lived here almost all of my life. I hope Sabah has a happy and prosperous future.”
Her aspiration was also for local boys and girls to develop their own talents as Sabah artists.
Tina completed her degree in Philosophy at London University. She pursued a Diploma in Education after the Second World War and was posted as Education Officer for the then British North Borneo Government.
Her first portrait was reportedly photographed by the then Customs Officer Roy Knowles in 1949, and can be viewed in the Sabah Museum today. This is believed to have started her fascination with portrait painting in Sabah.
Tina married Bert Rimmer in 1959 and subsequently lived in Lahad Datu where she became a teacher.