To kick off regular posts here on the Spirit of Tivaevae blog, I thought it would be fitting to begin with how this documentary came into being. This is going to sound strange, but it really began with the Pictionary-esque game, Draw Something.
I can feel your doubting gaze piercing my screen. How does a game like Draw Something turn into a documentary about Cook Islands quilting? It will all make sense in a minute, I promise.
As a child I enjoyed drawing and happened to be sort of good at it. Alas, as happens to many perfectionists, I gave up drawing when my artwork failed to meet my own exacting standards of how art was “supposed to look.” Somewhere along the way I also picked up some absurd notions about a mythical list of qualifications one had to meet in order to attain the rank of artist. I left to find safer harbors for creative exercise.
Fast forward to the Draw Something boom of 2012. Happily, in the last 10 years I leveled up to Recovering Perfectionist, which allowed me to enjoy digital finger painting with my friends. I realized I was actually a better artist than I remembered. Plus, the limited game prompts forced me outside my comfort zone. It proved I could passably draw something that didn’t have petals and a stem. Draw Something gave me the confidence to try painting a nerdtastic pair of Lord of the Rings themed shoes.
The successful shoe experiment forced me to consider how I thought about art, and also my insecurities surrounding it. For the first time I truly understood that real art does exist outside of paintings, sculptures, and museums. It was an enlightening and invigorating experience. I wanted exposure to new kinds of art, new ways to experiment in stretching creativity. The first thing I wanted to research? That was easy: native Cook Islands art forms.
Growing up in the U.S. has not offered many opportunities to experience the pacific island culture that accounts for half of my DNA. I’ve always wanted to know more about the half of the my family that lives in a culture that is so different from my own. Art seemed like the perfect way to build a connection from across the ocean. Of course, one of the first thing that pops up when you Google “Cook Islands art” is tivaevae. You can imagine my surprise when tivaevae turned out to be the really neat blankets that have been in my parent’s closet ever since I could remember.
And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
See? Sometimes falling prey to a digital game fad sends you on an expected path of discovery. If you’re really lucky, you might even end up with something you’re passionate about.
Melodie is the director and producer of Spirit of Tivaevae. Born in New Zealand to a Cook Islander father and American mother, Melodie was raised in the United States. Her family background gives her a unique perspective on being a Pacific Islander raised outside the culture.