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ARTS & CRAFT
1. Museums, Galleries
    Tatooing, Weaving
    & Carving
2. Souvenirs

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To begin your journey into appreciation of Cook Islands art and culture.  I suggest you visit the local museum.  The museum has collections of ancient Cook Islands and Polynesian stone and wooden artifacts.  There are also paintings by Cook Islands artists.  Entry to the museum is free.

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After the museum, drive back onto the main road and you will see the Paradise Inn.  The owner of this establishment has put a lot of effort into collecting works of art and setting up a gallery within.  After browsing around you can have a drink on the deck or, sit at the bar. 

Then just outside town is the Kenwall Gallery where there are a number of works on display and for purchase.  You will find works in pencil, watercolours and oil paints.

Finally, along the backroad in Matavera, you will find Julian Sobieski's gallery.  My mother has some of Julian's paintings - one of a hibiscus flower and the other two portraits of the beach. These are placed over shelves of shells. When you walk into her lounge you feel like you are on a remote island.   

Tatooing occurs on Rarotonga, but you must make sure you are definite about your plans to engage in such action. As it will probably cost you a bit to have it removed in your own country. If it interests you but you don't want a tatoo, talk to the tatooist and get him to explain the ancient Polynesian ritual of tatooing.   The best person to talk to about this is Mike Tavioni, who with his team is responsible for all the stone carvings at the National Auditorium and Museum.  You will usually find him on the backroad in Avatiu chipping away at his latest wood or, stone creation.  

Weaving either using rauara (pandanus) or, kikau (coconut frond) is not a common site on Rarotonga these days. But many people know how to make mats, hats, baskets, plates and toys out of the rauara and kikau. Some of the hotels/restaurants that host an island night or, island weddings often use the kikau baskets to put food in, so watch out for it.  Talking about baskets, ancient Cook Islanders had a basket for every type of application.  The baskets used for collecting shellfish, for fishing, for carrying fruit and rootcrops, and that for putting in the umu (earthoven) were all different.  You may find some of these at the market. The ancient Cook Islanders also use to weave sandals (maka), fishing nets, rope and eel traps out of sinnet (a part of the coconut tree).  These too are forms of art not practised today. If you get the opportunity to see this in action, watch and participate if they allow. Learn to make a ball or, a plate, those are the easiest things to make. In the past, the roof of huts used to be made out of rauara. These were tightly woven to keep out the rain, the angle of tilt also contributed to this. But later on during the missionary period, people became lazy and started to use kikau. Now of course we use roofing iron.

Carving was a big thing in ancient Cook Islands culture, although much of this is lost. Ancient Cook Islanders carved the poles of their huts, their canoes and weapons (clubs and spears). The patterns used were the same as that used in tatooing and dyed on tapa cloth. It is believed that families had their own symbols, much like some British families have crests.

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