Emotionally acknowledging her award as June’s “Au Vaine” or Woman of the Month in the Cook Islands for the month of May this year, 65-year-old Awhitia Mateara Tavioni has some firm beliefs about a woman’s role in life.
Married to master carver, artist and writer Mike Tavioni, she believes women must be able to humble themselves to their husbands and be dedicated to their family, while also holding close to their heart what their ancestors left behind, the customs and traditions of the Cook Islands.
Tavioni says she cannot explain in words her feelings about gaining the award, but acknowledges the support every Cook Islander and family and friends have given her.
“I am so humble to the people who have chosen me, because to me I am just someone who is proud of my heritage and culture, but I didn’t know they would pick me for that award.
“I thank them very much. My life is not like that of many women and I humble myself to my people. We received texts from over 1000 people to congratulate me, and it was the first time I have really felt how many people know and love me,” she said. A master carver in her own right, Tavioni describes herself as an “ordinary woman who is just a shadow to her husband and does not go beyond him.”
“I don’t go above him, when we go make the canoe or carving I am always behind him as a shadow.”
Describing the Cook Islands as her home and heritage, Tavioni said a woman must be able to dedicate her whole life as a wife, mother and grandmother to ensure the foundation of a home is strong enough to withstand anything.
“When we have children, the best thing for a woman is to stay home and look after her husband and children. This is important, money is nothing.
“No matter what, when a woman marries and says ‘I do,’ it is for better or for worse. We must love our families and teach our children the path of righteousness for a happy life.”.
Tavioni received her prestigious award at a special dinner night at the Islander Hotel.
True to her words about supporting her husband, Awhitia can be spotted most days, hard at work carving all manner of items at the Tavioni’s studio on the back road at Atupa.
CI News editor Cameron Scott and his wife Karen have known Mike and Awhitia for more than 15 years, and count them as special friends.
“I am so pleased that she won this award, because Awhitea really is a remarkable woman,” Scott says.
“She may appear quiet and unassuming, but I know from personal experience that she is also very wise, highly perceptive and generous, with a great sense of humour.”