It is with sadness that we learnt that tīvaevae maker Mama Paree Rauru Ringiao passed away last month. Mama Paree was born in Mitiaro in 1930 and was one of 15 children, she was referred to by her family as the ‘Princess of Mitiaro’. In 1946 she married Tutu Ringiao in Rarotonga and moved to New Zealand in 1952. She was an active member of the Cook Island community in Wellington and was one of the founders of the Pacific Island Presbyterian Church in Newtown.
In 2008 Te Papa purchased a collection of tīvaevae, cushion covers and a bed cover set from Mama Paree. Three of her tīvaevae taorei (patchwork quilts) are currently on display in the exhibition Tivaevae: Out of the Glory Box as part of the Ngā Toi Arts Te Papa Autumn Season. She also allowed the use of her tīvaevae in our marketing campaigns which included the large scale print on the level 4 stairs – which she was quite impressed with.
Mama Paree was a generous woman always willing to share her knowledge and stories of tīvaevae. Many of you will remember her from her lively and animated floor talk during the opening.
In an article published in the lead up to the opening of the exhibition, Mama Paree spoke about the meaning of her tīvaevae and was quoted saying, “It is very important to me and my family. It’s a piece of our history”. Indeed, the three tīvaevae on display offer a material record of her life, her travels home to the island of Mitiaro and most importantly her family. Each tīvaevae links her to the Mama’s of her life, her maternal grandmother, her mother in law and her mother Mere Teauveroa (nee Stringer). One of Mama Paree’s most treasured tīvaevae is the tīvaevae taoeri ‘etu (patchwork with star pattern) given to her on the day of her wedding from her soon to be mother in law. I am glad that Mama Paree was able to see her life celebrated in her beautiful tīvaevae.
The loss of Mama Paree will be felt by many in the Cook Islands community –none more so than her family. We hope the family are comforted by her tīvaevae in the exhibition and are consoled in the knowledge that her life and history is treasured in our collection.
Farewell Mama Paree. May you rest in peace.