Spirit of Tivaevae: a Cook Islands documentary

A woman searches for a missing piece of her cultural identity through the Cook Islands art of tivaevae.

Follow our production adventures

The beginning of production is almost upon us! In about 12 hours, I will be boarding a plane bound for Rarotonga. There will be weekly posts from the road here on the blog. However, if you want to follow along "as it happens," here's the rundown of where you can find more frequent, short, updates.

Official Hashtag

Our official film tag is #TivaevaeFilm, if you type that into any of the social platforms we're on, you will see everything related to our film on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Checking in on the hashtag is probably the quickest way to get caught up on the daily happenings.


Follow @TivaevaeFilm and @MelodieTurori.


@MelodieTurori is your best bet for most frequent tweeting from the road, but you'll also catch us on @TivaevaeFilm.


Of course, there is our official page.


Updated 7/27/15: When the trip started, I didn't expect to be using Snapchat much. However, I've used it quite a bit. So, if you like your updates in more of a play-by-play style, follow melodieturori!

Stitched with Love

Enjoy this lovely video posted by Te Papa Museum!
“It’s my grandma, she presented me with a tivaevae and said, 'You remember this. I sew it with my hands and all the stitches that I have done, there’s thousands of them, that’s how much I love you. I stitch it with that love.’ Isn't that beautiful?"

KNX Radio Feature

Guess what?! We're on the radio this weekend! KNX 1070 reporter Ron Kilgore did a feature on our Seed&Spark campaign and the piece will be airing throughout the weekend. Listen online here to see if you can catch it! For those of you not near a radio or computer, listen to the feature below:
My first time on the radio was as a teenager (thanks to Brian "The Doc" Halliday and his Inside Soccer show). I've had the radio bug ever since. In fact, it was radio that drove me into a Broadcast Writing class at Palomar College. That class was the catalyst for switching my major to Radio & TV, which is how we all ended up here. Radio took a painfully shy kid who preferred to be invisible and it gave her a voice. It taught that kid that she could speak and others would listen, an incredible gift. For these reasons, I will always love radio. I haven't done any on-air work since I graduated from Biola, so it was extra special to have this opportunity on KNX. Mahalo, Ron! P.S. We've got about 11 days left to hit our goal on Seed&Spark. With your support, we'll be there in no time! Click here to contribute.

Let’s dance! (We got the green light!)

We’re half-way through our campaign and we just got our Green Light on Seed&Spark! I promised you a special video when we got the Green Light and I’m here to make good on that promise. I forgot to mention in the video that part of the deal in a Tahitian solo is the dancer does not know which drum beats will be played. You have to be able to identify the beats and choreograph the appropriate steps on the fly — that’s why solos are intimidating. Check out Hitia O Te Ra on Facebook. Not only is the group one of the best around SoCal, the Tekurio family is truly special. They were the first people to make Orange County feel like home to me. If you want to see some excellent Tahitian solos, come out to Hura Tahiti in Cypress, CA, June 19-20!

Our first featured tivaevae artists!

Meet our first group of tivaevae artists who will be interviewed for the film: Mary Ama and the Pacifica Mamas! As a collective the group have a shared passion for developing, reviving, and sharing the traditional arts and cultures of their island homelands, including the Cook Islands art of Tivaevae. Mary Ama and the Pacifica Mamas are widely recognised within the Pacific community as respected artists, mentors and cultural leaders. In recognition of their contribution to traditional arts Mary Ama and the Pacifica Mamas were awarded the Creative New Zealand Heritage Arts Award 2012. I am unbelievably excited to have the support of these wonderful ladies and I can’t wait to share their stories with you. 🙂

Meet Field Producer Apii Napa

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the filmmakers that will be working on the Spirit of Tivaevae crew during production this summer. Here’s a bit about Apii in her own words: Continue reading

Five fun facts about Melodie

Our crowdfunding campaign kicked off last week on Seed&Spark. Today, we posted our first update video. I hope you enjoy it! Read the rest of the update Like I said in the video, I would love to get to know our supporters a little more! Leave a comment below or shoot me an email and introduce yourself. What kind of movies do you like? Have you ever visited the Cook Islands? Your favorite book(s)? Whatever you want to chat about. 🙂

From coconut to Kuki

Growing up, I was vaguely aware that there was a dual heritage in my blood, but I didn’t begin to understand how that identity might impact my life until I was 21. At that point, I made the first timid steps to exploring my Cook Islands roots. I quickly learned the term “coconut,” slang for a person who is brown on the outside but white on the inside. “Coconut” is usually derogatory...but it’s also the best way to explain how I feel in the presence of other Pacific Islanders. The ones who know their culture. The more young Pacific Islanders I meet, the more I realize that I am not alone in harboring the secret fear that I’ll never quite measure up. Continue reading

Fear, laughter, and culture

"These Maori men are told they need to be like their ancestors, they need to hold themselves up to a high standard, but how do they do that while still existing in today's society? That's the question."
The question, indeed! The answer to that central question is what my generation of Pacific Islanders must answer. We seek the balancing spot between the tradition and modern. I identified with a lot of what the crew and cast had to say in this article about a new NZ comedy series, Find Me a Maori Bride. It's encouraging to see a group that wants to showcase culture through humor instead of using culture as an easy punchline.
"What I hope we'll get across is that the culture isn't behind closed doors. There are times when I have felt it's too difficult to get in there, but it's actually obvious. "It's right there, and there are people really wanting to share it with you, and there's absolutely no reason why you should be afraid."
Have you ever passed on an opportunity to learn about culture because you were afraid you'd say or do something wrong and come off as insensitive? I struggled with those fears at the beginning of this project. As with many things in life, it's all about your attitude. I've found that humility and respect are what our keepers of culture appreciate, they will forgive a lot if your heart is in the right place.

We start filming in 6 months!

As I sit here typing away, I have to stop and pinch myself again. Is this real life?! 6 months from today we begin filming Spirit of Tivaevae. It's true! We'll be filming in the Cook Islands for two weeks at the end of July, followed by filming in New Zealand for the first two weeks of August. This means we'll be in Rarotonga for most of the annual Te Maeva Nui cultural festival (this year the Cook Islands are celebrating 50 years of self governance!). I believe this will give us access to more tivaevae mama's than we would otherwise be able to have due to time and budget restraints. It has been two and a half years of research, networking and preparation to get here. There's plenty of work still to be done between now and July, more than I care to dwell on that's for sure. The time for the tivaevae revival is now. Nope, even after writing it all out for you, it still doesn't quite feel real yet. Maybe if I write it out one more time... 6 months from today we roll camera!! 🙂
« Older posts