We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Turtle-back design (Paka onu)

mid 1970s


Vaerua Anguna

Cook Islands

  • Details

    mid 1970s
    Media category
    Materials used
    machine-sewn tivaevae ta’orei, cotton
    216.0 x 278.0 x 0.4 cm
    Rudy Komon Memorial Fund 2022
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Verua Anguna

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Vaerua Anguna

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Tivaevae, as they are known in the Cook Islands, or tifaifai, as they are known in Tahiti, are the vital women’s textile tradition practised throughout eastern Polynesia. Meaning ‘to patch’, tivaevae draw from both western and Polynesian sources. Though missionaries brought western quilt-making and modern fabrics to the Pacific, tivaevae have a direct connection to much older bark cloth traditions. Gifts of love, they are made for important rites of passage, from boys' haircutting celebrations to weddings and funerals.

    Of the different types of Cook Islands tivaevae, perhaps the most highly prized is the tivaevae ta’orei. These are made by the careful assembly of hundreds of tiny, coloured squares or diamonds of cloth and take great skill to construct, such as in this fine, ‘turtle-back’ example gifted to the previous owner, a member of the Sydney Cook Islands community.

    Made by his godmother, this striking kaleidoscopic piece was first gifted to his aunt who, as she had no children, gifted it to the owner on his wedding day to ensure it was passed down. This is not unusual as tivaevae are made not only to delight and to cherish, but to represent the teaching and learning of papa’anga (genealogy), knowledge of the past, handed down from generation to generation.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Matisse Alive, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 11 Oct 2021–03 Apr 2022