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Published: 06 November 2021

By Andy Ross

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Tivaivai - the social fabric of the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands have a tradition of using patchwork to cement relationships and shape culture. 

Brought into the islands by Christian missionaries, woven cloth was quickly adopted and adapted for local use. It became a part of the ceremonial life of islanders, previously a role that was taken by tapa cloth, and marked a significant shift in power dynamics, from men to women. The introduction of the cloth for clothing was just the start of what has now become a traditional craft - that of making tivaivai. These patchwork and embroidered cloths, unique to the islands, are used to celebrate and mark important occasions, and to cement and demonstrate the relationships that exist in this maritime world.

In a new book for the library - Tivaivai, the social fabric of the Cook Islands - the history of this tradition is explored along with its significance to culture and contemporary practice. This website shows some of the pages of the publication. This website page explains some of the ways in which tivaivai are used in ceremony and shows how important they are to the islands and on the Auckland Museum site here you can read about one of these beautiful pieces in the collection. 

The picture (left) comes from the Cook Islands Library and Museum Society page about tivaivai.