Curriculum links

Learning area

  • Arts
  • Social Sciences

What strands will it fit with?

  • Arts – Visual Arts – Understanding the Arts in Context, Developing Ideas, Communicating and Interpreting
  • Social Sciences – Identity, Culture, and Organisation, Place and Environment, Continuity and Change

Key Competencies

Relating to others, Using language, symbols, and texts

Level of achievement

Levels 1-8

Year group

Years 1-13

What topics of study can it support?

  • Innovation and Invention
  • Pacific Society Past and Present
  • New Zealand Society Past and Present
  • New Zealand Art and Artists
  • Pūrakau – storytelling

How long may this take?

  • Allow 10-15 minutes

Where do I find it?

  • Level 4 Tangata o le Moana exhibition
  • Lost? Ask a Te Papa Host.

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Why should I take my class to visit this?

  • See some great examples of tīvaevae
  • The whole class can fit around the items

What is there to do there?

  • Investigate the quilts and identify the patterns the artists use. Occasionally, but not very often, these patterns are used to tell a story.
  • Observe and discuss the tīvaevae and the making of it in New Zealand and around Polynesia.
  • Discuss the uses of tīvaevae.
  • Compare the tīvaevae with other textiles around Te Papa.

What should I know about this?

  • Tīvaevae are colourful, hand-sewn and sometimes machine-sewn, bed coverings, or quilts.
  • Tīvaevae plays an important role in the daily life of many Cook Island women.
  • Tīvaevae patterns are often inspired by and reflect the environment of the Cook Islands. They can incorporate designs of flowers, leaves, birds, fish, insects, and animals.
  • There is no documented evidence of how tīvaevae making started in the Cook Islands, but it’s been suggested that it was introduced by the wives of missionaries from England in the early 19th century, or by nuns from Tahiti who taught embroidery, needlework, sewing and crochet.
  • Tīvaevae are made in other parts of Polynesia, including Hawai’i, Tahiti, and the Society Islands.
  • Tīvaevae making is a social activity, where the women of a local community come together to cut and sew the designs. (Although some women do work alone).
  • Tīvaevae are used for a variety of practical purposes, such as for decoration and presentations during ceremonies. These occasions could include hair cuttings, weddings, 21st birthdays, visits to church Ministers and dignitaries, and funerals.
  • They are given to family, but may also be given away outside they family. Tīvaevae can be sold, but many women do not sell their work because of the attachment they feel towards it.
  • There are two main types of Cook Island tīvaevae – manu (appliqué) and taorei (patchwork). They are distinguished by the use of different sewing techniques.
  • Patchwork, or tīvaevae taorei, are made from small pieces of material in squares, triangles or diamonds, and in a variety of colours, that are sewn together to form a pattern.
  • Appliqué tīvaevae have three varieties, of which tataura is one. There is also tīvaevae manu, and tīvaevae tuitui tataura. The three appliqué tīvaevae are distinguished by their stitching techniques.
  • Tīvaevae manu are identified by the large single-coloured base or background, with cut-out shapes of mostly floral patterns, which are sewn on top.
  • Tīvaevae tataura are made using a combination of stitching.
  • Tīvaevae tuitui tataura are identified by square-shaped fabric with floral, embroidered designs that are crocheted to form a large tīvaevae.
  • Most women know how to sew tīvaevae, but not all are experts when it comes to designing and cutting them. Those that are attain the status of ta’unga, or experts.  Usually there is only one women in a group who designs and cuts. Ta’unga Groups get together on a regular basis to make tīvaevae, share ideas and sing as they work. These groups are called va'inetini.
  • Tīvaevae making in New Zealand is kept alive through the knowledge and skills passed on by resident ta’unga.

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Possible topics for discussion

  • Compare the tīvaevae on display. What patterns can you see? What are the similarities and differences between them?
  • If you could make a tīvaevae, what patterns, colours and shapes would you use? Who would it be for? If you were to present it to someone, who would that important person be and why have you chosen that person?
  • How much time would it take to sew a tīvaevae like these ones?
  • Should the skills of making such beautiful tīvaevae be replaced with modern technology to save time?
  • What do you think would be the most difficult part of making the tīvaevae?
  • Why do you think some people give their tīvaevae away, and some people sell them?
  • Tīvaevae is an example of a European tradition that has been reinterpreted in a Pacific context. Compare these quilts with any you might have at home. What are the similarities and differences?
  • Storage of tīvaevae – care of the quilts at home compared with tīvaevae in a museum setting.
  • ‘Many girls today don’t seem to care about, or understand the value of tīvaevae.’ Discuss this statement.
  • What modern day materials could you use to create tīvaevae?

Further information

Related objects

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