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 Western world how might practicing the ways of tivaevae change who we become?

Sharing the stories behind the art is an opportunity to connect and inspire new generations to reflect on their roots 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 multimedia project documenting my own learning process in making my first tivaevae and the stories of other tivaevae makers.

We are building an archive of footage to perpetuate the practice of tivaevae. Additional interviews with tivaevae artists have been filmed in subsequent years (2017 & 2018). A series of short artist profiles are in post-production as of 2019.

The Producer

Kia Orana! My name is Melodie Turori. I am half Cook Islander – my father’s family comes from the beautiful islands of Aitutaki and Pukapuka. On my mother’s side our roots go back to Sweden and Germany.

I was born in Aotearoa New Zealand but grew up in sunny San Diego with an ocean between me and half of my family. In my early twenties I (finally) began to learn and dig deep into the island side of my heritage. What I found is a deep well of wisdom, a culture with a rich history of art, and people who embody joy and generosity.

Exploring Cook Islands culture has been life changing as a person and storyteller. The impact extends beyond identity, weaving into every part of my life. Through the Spirit of Tivaevae project I’ve gained mentors, friends, knowledge, and purpose in documenting the stories of Pacific peoples.