The evening began with an opening prayer by Papa Mata Tauiti who is visiting from New Zealand with several members of his extended family and friends.
Secretary of Culture, Anthony Turua, gave the opening speech before Miss Cook Islands participant Grace Loki cut the rauti, allowing guests to move upstairs to the exhibition space.
Turua is passionate about recognising the designers of these beautiful traditional costumes and sharing their talent with locals and visitors, especially Cook Islanders holidaying on Rarotonga.
“The hours of work that have gone into making some of these creations would be almost immeasurable,” he said.
Many of the costumes featured in the exhibition had been worn by contestants in last year’s Miss Cook Islands pageant.
“The costumes are seen on stage for five minutes or so, and are only seen by those in attendance at the pageant. It is such a shame for them to then be stored away or deconstructed without further exposure.
“Materials used to make the costumes had to be gathered from the mountains, soaked for many hours in the sea, dried and then woven into magic,” he said.
“Many sleepless nights would have gone into creating these masterpieces, to be ready in time for the pageant. “
Turua wants to make the exhibition an annual event and encourages costume designers to make them available for display so their talents can be acknowledged and appreciated by the wider community.
He said he would also like Cook Islands Dancer of the Year costumes to be shown in future exhibitions.
The show would also inspire younger generations to keep the costume-making traditions alive, he said.
The exhibition will be open until February 12. - Karen Scott