Tivaevae Ta'onga - Our Tivaevae Glory Box

4 September 2012

Wellington's Cook Islands community are coming together to display their family tivaevae - artworks that are rarely seen outside the glory boxes of many Cook Islands women at Toi Poneke Gallery from Friday 14 September.

Tīvaevae Tā'onga - our tīvaevae glory box will showcase a number of tīvaevae belonging to various Wellington-based Cook Island families.

Tīvaevae is a form of art where colourful quilts are either appliqued, embroidered or made from many small pieces of material sewn into patterns.

The exhibition will also showcase photographs and footage of Cook Islands ceremonial and cultural occasions, where tīvaevae are a prominent feature.

Teremoana Yala, one of the organisers of Tīvaevae Tā'onga, says the importance of tīvaevae for a Cook Islands woman in days gone by cannot be understated. 

"Even today, in many of the outer islands of the Cook Islands, the adage a 'woman is not a woman until she's made a tīvaevae' remains."

The exhibition will feature the three styles of tīvaevae most commonly made by Cook Islands women:

  • tīvaevae ta'ōrei (patchwork)
  • tivaevae manu (applique)
  • tivaevae tataura (embroidered).

Although tīvaevae may be made by one person, they are generally made by groups of women.

"The gatherings produce a sense of community for the women while sewing. Fellowship develops through singing, conversing and teasing, plus sharing their observations about family and life in general."

The public will have the opportunity to learn how to make tīvaevae during a series of workshops, which will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the duration of the exhibition.

"A tīvaevae ta'unga (expert) will demonstrate tīvaevae embroidery in the workshops. Feel free to bring along fabric that can be cut up into patterns for cushion covers or wall hangings," says Yala.

The exhibition was inspired by a desire within the Wellington-based Cook Islands Community to encourage Cook Islands women to practice the art of tīvaevae embroidery. 

"The last tīvaevae exhibition in Wellington was held over ten years ago. Over the last year, we've been approached by a number of Cook Islands women keen to display their tīvaevae and we felt it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase family heirlooms, which, for the most part, are confined to the glory boxes of many Cook Islands women."

Tīvaevae Tā'onga - our tīvaevae glory box runs from Friday 14 September until Saturday 6 October.

Workshops run 10.30am - 2.00pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the show.