Arts and Crafts
The Cook Island women are renowned for their craftwork particularly their Tivaevae. These are handmade bedspreads mainly featuring brightly coloured flowery patterns. Local women make and reserve these for special occasions.
Beautiful local artwork and crafts can be found at the market. Not to be missed is the Saturday morning market in Rarotonga on the waterfront at the western end of Avarua.
The pareu is a garment regularly in use in the Cooks. It is a length of cloth about 2 metres long, which can be tied around the body in a variety of ways. Pareus are a practical garment for the hot climate, the light colourful fabrics wash and dry quickly and are equally good as picnic cloths or convenient towels.
Arts and crafts are readily available in the Cooks with the most popular souvenir items being the wooden carvings of the phallic demi-god 'Tangaroa'. This fisherman's god is easily recognised by his stature - hands clasped over his protruding stomach, legs astride and a most distinguished genital organ. Early missionaries often removed his offensive parts, but today he stands intact often decorating the lounge rooms of resorts.
Tangaroas image is minted on a special dollar coin. Authentic handcrafts often come from islands, which specialise in a particular item. The omate shell and seed hat bands come from Mangaia, while finely woven pandanus mats come from Pukapuka. Materials used in weaving are palm and pandanus leaves, which are so well processed that the end product often has the appearance of a linen fabric.
One of the finest examples of local handicraft is the rito hat. These hats are available to tourists, but are not just a curiosity, they are a vital part of every Cook Islands woman's dress. Woven baskets are always a popular item and are made from the fibre of coconuts. The attractively carved slit drums (pate) from the Northern Group islands are another good souvenir.