Tivaevae or tivaivai (Cook Islands Māori: tīvaevae) in the Cook Islands, tifaifai in French Polynesia, is a form of art at which Polynesian women excel. Tivaevae means to stitch or sew and Cook Islands women make magnificent bed covers called tivaevae. The tivaevae are either made by one woman or can be created in groups of women called vainetini. The vainetini use this time together to bond, sing and catch up on village news.
By custom, a tivaevae is not measured by monetary value nor production cost. Its value is said to be reflected by the love and patience that the creator(s) have put into making a stunning work of art. Cook Islands women often described their tivaevae as being "something from the heart."
Tivaevae are often given on very special occasions either to important visitors, as birthday and wedding gifts or used to cover the body of a loved one who has died. They are often displayed during important events like the traditional boys' hair cutting ceremonies, birthdays and weddings.
The tivaevae's origins are uncertain. Rongokea (1992) believes it to be an imported art form, and cites two sets of Christian missionaries in the 19th century as possible origins.
It is widely believed that while the Cook Islands women may have gotten the idea of making quilts from early Christian women, they have taken it to extraordinary heights and developed it into a unique artform that is beautiful to behold.
- Lynnsay Rongokea (1992). Tivaevae: Portraits of Cook Islands Quilting. Wellington: Daphne Brasell Associates Press. ISBN 0-908896-20-4.
- Tivaevae in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
- Tivaevae - Cook Islands communal art at the www.ck site
- Tropic Monoi's Tifaifai
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