Keeping art of tivaevae alive

Tuesday 24 November 2020 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Art, Features

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Keeping art of tivaevae alive
Cecelia Kimiora with the tivaevae displayed at the Mitiaro market hall. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU /20112307

The outer island travel experience is helping revive traditional art making in the Pa Enua.

Cecelia Kimiora was brought up in an environment where the art of tivaevae is given great importance.

Today, the mother of seven ensures her children keep the culture of tivaevae making alive and close to their hearts.

Mama Kimiora, as she is known on Mitiaro, was among the women who came together to showcase their designer items to the local visitors who travelled to the island this month.

Apart from tivaevae, the visitors from Rarotonga, who were part of the Southern Tour package being promoted by Cook Islands Tourism, also had a chance to witness the art of mat and basket weaving, as well as sewing cushion covers and making table mats.


Mama Teei Aupuni weaving a basket. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 20112301

Mama Kimiora says it takes her around two to three weeks to sew the tivaevae. But the time depends on whether she hand sews or uses a sewing machine to stitch tivaevae.

Originally from Mauke, Kimiora was raised by her grandmother who taught her the art of tivaevae.

“I started sewing tivaevae on my own at the age of 18 in Mauke, I kept learning. And now I am married here in Mitiaro and here I am still learning from the mamas, it is important to keep the tradition going,” Kimiora says.

At the market, Kimiora is also learning the art of weaving mats and basket from her fellow vendors.

Apart from helping revive these ancient skills, she says the weekly market has also helped them earn some money.

“I think this is good, we are only seven mamas and it has brought in a bit of income for our family. We also get to show our talents, skills, traditions.

“It is something for our Cook Islands people to come and see. Come to Mitiaro come and see what we have for you.”

The market was set up by Divine Retreats’ Cindyanna Abraham as a way to help boost the tourism industry on the island as well as provide some income for the mamas.

It is now being managed by Ake Pouau.

Mama Pouau, 77, says in the past they used to export maire ei overseas but that has now stopped.


Mama Ake Pouau with the cushion covers. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 20112306

She says the outer island travel experience is allowing visitors to witness first-hand what they make and how they make them.

“Because we are now open to visitors, we the seven women try to do our duty and show what we have made. It is the first time we have visitors; we support the project and we want to show we are keeping the culture of making mats, rito hats and basket alive.”

Cecelia Kimiora hopes to pass the knowledge she is gaining from the fellow vendors to her two daughters, who stay with her on the island.

She also spends some of her time teaching the school students of Mitiaro the art of making pareu.

“To my children especially my daughters I encourage them to learn all this while I am still alive. I want to teach them so they know and continue on teaching others.”