British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 216.000 cm
Width: 275.000 cm
Gift of Dr Suzanne Küchler, 2003
AOA Oc 2003,02.2.a
Atiu, Cook Islands,
The wives of Christian missionaries introduced cloth sewing to the islanders of the eastern Pacific. Many women adopted these new skills and materials with enthusiasm and the manufacture of barkcloth, the traditional material out of which clothing was made, gradually declined.
In the Cook, Hawaiian and Society islands, women began to make large appliqué quilts known as tivaevae.
This tivaevae was made as a bed cover with two matching pillowcases and comes from the Cook Islands. Its design of yellow flowers and light green leaves are based on the breadfruit tree. It was made by laying out four blocks of the design symmetrically, nearly touching at the edges of blocks. Green cotton leaf shapes form the lower layer of appliqué with yellow cotton stylised flower designs uppermost. The whole is delicately stitched in a thread of matching colour. The snowflake design of the breadfruit tree was made by folding cloth four times and cutting the design into it.
It was made for the Vaini Tini show, an annual competitive event organised by the Cook Islands Christian Church between villages on every island. The design and cutting was done by Mrs Ake Takaiti, a nurse at the hospital in Rarotonga known for her drawing and cutting skills, and was sewn by Mrs Ake Mingi from Teenui village on Atiu island.
Ake Mingi has five children and started sewing tivaevae when she got married in 1963.
Tivaevae are treated as heirlooms in the Cook Islands today.
S.Kuchler & G. Were, Pacific Pattern (London, Thames & Hudson, 2005)