A woman is not a woman until she’s made a tivaevae.
– Cook Islands Adage

Spirit of Tivaevae (Te Vaerua o te Tivaevae) is a documentary where cultural tradition and modern living collide.

Growing up in Southern California, Melodie has been separated by an ocean from her dad’s side of the family. Detached from the Cook Islands part of her heritage and making a living in the digital space has left her longing for a tangible, textile connection to her heritage.

In the Cook Islands, Melodie experiences tradition first-hand by learning to make her first tivaevae quilt from the mamas who have been practicing the art for years. Through the stories of the tivaevae and their creators, she begins to understand why tivaevae became an important staple of Cook Islands tradition.

New Zealand is home to the largest population of Cook Islanders outside their native islands. Here, Melodie discovers how migration and a new environment has changed the meaning and methods of tivaevae.

What does it mean to be a modern Cook Islands woman? In an increasingly digital world, how will the traditions of tivaevae change who we become?

“It will be a great loss to our culture if we don’t wake up now and try to save this unique and priceless gift of wisdom from our grandmothers, our mothers, and the Almighty. ‘Take heed of the wisdom of the “old” for thine is the joy and pride of belonging and owning an identity of being a true Cook Islands Woman’.”
– Vereara Maeva

Spirit of Tivaevae is fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions.

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The personal stories and relationships of the tivaevae artists inspire the stunning designs that have been an important part of Cook Islands life and ceremony since the early 1800s. This film highlights the struggle to integrate and pass on cultural traditions to today’s young people.

Sharing the stories behind the art is an opportunity to inspire a new generation to reflect on their heritage before key cultural arts are lost to history.

Learn more about tivaevae