In this fifth and final blogpost of Te Epetoma o te Reo Māori Kuki Airani – Cook Islands Māori Language week, we look at five rare masks from Mangaia. Thank you for following, liking and sharing the blogs this week.
In pre-European times, Cook Islanders used tapa to wrap ceremonial objects such as staff gods (wooden staffs carved with figures) that came mostly from the island of Rarotonga. The volcanic soil of some atolls in the Southern Cook Islands was fertile ground for tapa-making trees, particularly paper mulberry, but also banyan and breadfruit trees. During the 1800s, on the atoll of Mangaia people used tapa to make pare’eva (festival masks) that were worn at ‘eva, celebrations commemorating ancient gods and local brave men. The pare’eva were sometimes worn with tiputa (ponchos) and were decorated with motifs and sometimes coloured pigments. The few rare masks and photographs we have at Te Papa document a form of costuming that appears to been in practice for only a few decades. By the early decades of the 20th century it had stopped altogether.