Mu’umu’u styles from a Cook Islands mama

Mu’umu’u styles from a Cook Islands mama

To celebrate Cook Islands language week, the Pacific Cultures team are blogging about collection items from the Cook Islands. Here, Safua Akeli talks about the mu’umu’u (dress) worn in the Cook Islands.

Bright yellow dress with stitched-on flowers
Mu’umu’u (dress), about 1990’s, New Zealand, maker unknown. Purchased 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (FE012459)

These mu’umu’u (dress) are part of a number of dresses acquired by the Pacific Cultures collection in 2009 from Tepaeru Tereora. Tereora was the fifth National President for Pacific Allied (Women’s) Council Inspires Faith Ideals Concerning All Incorporation which was established in 1977. The mu’umu’u dresses were made for Mrs Tereora during her time as president by various branches of the P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A organisation.

Pink and white dress with flower pattern
Mu’umu’u (dress), about 1990’s, New Zealand, maker unknown. Purchased 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (FE012460)

The mu’umu’u or mother hubbard style dress was introduced by missionaries to the Cook Islands in the 1820s. For various reasons including ideas about modesty and the fashion trend, the mu’umu’u was adopted in the nineteenth century. Since its introduction, the mu’umu’u like those belonging to Tereora have become a vital part of Cook Islands fashion style.

Photograph of a woman in a long dress with stripes
Unknown woman, about 1910, Cook Islands, by George Crummer. Te Papa (B.028279)

1 Comment

  1. Kia orana! just to let everyone know – if you don’t already – the Cook Islands are a Self Governing Nation – and have been since August 4 1965 (we have just celebrated our birthday and the signing of our Constitution with a fantastic ‘Te Maeva Nui’ Festival!)… so we aren’t actually a possession of anyone except ourselves 🙂
    Yes come and see it for yourselves!

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