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 project where cultural tradition and modern living collide.

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

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 time.

“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

The Documentary

This project and website began in 2013 with the goal of making a feature length documentary film.

A first round of film production took place in 2015 and was fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions. We had many amazing supporters who helped make that trip possible. Though I was unsuccessful in completing a feature film, the project gained the roots necessary for what it is now:

Spirit of Tivaevae is a living project documenting my own learning process in making my first tivaevae as well as the stories of other tivaevae makers.

The Producer

Kia Orana! My name is Melodie Turori. I am half Kuki Airani – my father’s family comes from the beautiful islands Aitutaki and Pukapuka. On my mother’s side we are Swedish and German.

I was born in Aotearoa New Zealand but grew up in sunny San Diego with an ocean between me and half of my family. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to learn about the island side of my heritage. What I’ve found is a deep well of wisdom and a culture with a rich history of art. Exploring of Kuki Airani culture has been life changing, the final piece in sorting out who I am and who I want to become.

The impact extends beyond identity and into nearly every part of my life. Through the Spirit of Tivaevae project I’ve gained mentors, friends, knowledge, and a life purpose in documenting stories of the Pacific.