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Atiu Tīvaivai Exhibit showcases generations of craft and culture

Saturday 25 May 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Culture, Features, Go Local, Local, National, Outer Islands


Atiu Tīvaivai Exhibit showcases generations of craft and culture
Te Vainetini of St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church Atiu display their vibrant tīvaivai pieces for the Atiu Tīvaivai Exhibit at the Catholic Hall at Te Pori o Nuku. From left: Vaineara Matapakia, Clara George, Rima Bob, Tuainekore William, and Tini Tivini. MELINA ETCHES/24052417

An exhibit in Atiu showcases the traditional craft of tivaivai, hand-stitched quilts made by women, with efforts to keep the art alive amongst younger generations.

Tīvaivai, vibrant colored fabric hand-stitched into treasured appliquéd and patchworked quilts, are made by women across the Cook Islands.

On the island of Enuamanu Atiu, the craft of tīvaivai is still popular among the vainetini (women) groups.

On Thursday, the Atiu Tīvaivai Exhibit, owned by Lucy Moody and Teina Toru, was hosted by the Vainetini of St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church Atiu at the Father Edwin Hall, Te Pori O Nuku.

“Atiu Tīvaivai Exhibit is a tour option for our island to showcase the vainetini handcraft of different tīvaivai designs dating back to over 50 years ago in mid-fifties,” says Moody.

“The intricate and time-consuming hand stitches reflect the passion and stories that go with each piece.”

Moody says they encourage more young people to take up the art by starting with simple pieces and hopefully progressing to more intricate work.

Because Toru was in Rarotonga, Moody says she decided to gift the tour to the Catholic Vaine as they occasionally host functions to raise funds.

“This came about as an option for Atiu to showcase the special work of our vainetini and we can give back to the community.”

Two magnificent tīvaivai ta'ōrei quilts, over 50 years old and made from many small pieces of material sewn into patterns, were placed at the sides of the front display.

One of these stunning pieces was created by Moody’s grandmother, Vouvou Paulina Vapiri Kautai.

“She would have the vainetini at her house with all the colours all cut up. The women would sit around and she would call out the pattern, and the number of colours she wanted per row. And if you made a mistake from mishearing her calling the colour, that’s a mistake for the whole tīvaivai...,” shares Moody.

Back in those days, there were four women allocated to complete one tīvaivai at a time.

“Vouvou did not discriminate against any group who would come to see her.”

Moody explains that back then tīvaivai was gifted to a particular child, for a wedding, or a funeral, and very special occasions.

Sixty-seven-year-old Rima Bob is the former president of the Catholic vainetini sewing group and is passionate about keeping the art of tīvaivai thriving.

“We are happy to display our tīvaivai for our visitors to our island,” says Bob.

Born in Atiu, Bob started sewing tīvaivai at the age of 19.

She was taught to sew by her mother Tavai Michael Toki and one of her tutors, Patikura Jim.

“Our group is still going strong here but there are times when we have to fundraise to help buy the materials we need,” Bob says.

“We want our young people to take up this precious needlework, to join our sewing groups because this will also help them in their life.

“Te inangaro nei au no te au mapu no ratou teia tuatau te opu mai te kite… no ratou teia tuatau.

“Akamaroiroi te au mapu, no teia tuatau.”

Bob is proud of the effort of the Catholic vainetini group to create four beautiful tīvaivai and hand-printed sheets that were gifted for the ordination of the coadjutor bishop Reynaldo Getalado and Bishop Paul Donoghue.

Both coadjutor bishop Getalado and retiring Bishop Paul Donoghue will be arriving in Atiu on June 19.

“We are already preparing our tīvaivai for our two bishops, so we have more to present to them,” said Bob.

The women meet once a month to sew, talk and catch up.

President of Te Vainetini O St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church Atiu is Maryanne Mataiao, secretary – Angela Maka, and treasurer is Lucy Mateariki Moody.

  • Melina Etches’ trip to Atiu was made possible through the support of TAKA Educational Trust and Air Rarotonga.


Ross Holmes on 25/05/2024

Beautiful work ladies. Our vouvou would be so proud of you all and to still have two of her master pieces intact and completed by our sister Lucy Moody is heart warming... Thank you Melina for this article. Kind regards Janet Holmes (nee Mateariki)