Kia Orana!

Sunday 30th July – Saturday 5th August 2023 is ‘Epetoma ō te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani, Cook Islands Language Week.

Header image: Tivaevae tataura AWMM 2001.12.23, 55855

From Sunday 30 July until Saturday 5 August, the Museum will be illuminated every evening in red, white and blue in recognition of Cook Islands Language Week.

'Ākono'anga au 'apinga 'akapapa'anga kōrero ta'ito 'ō te kōpū tangata 'ē pērā, tō tēta'i tangata 'okota'i

Download our toolkit for caring for family and personal archives, available in Cook Islands Māori. If you wish to access the toolkit in English, or another language, click here to view the available translations. 

‘E tu‘anga mātau‘ia te ‘akapapa‘anga kōrero ta‘ito ‘ō te kōpū tangata ‘ē tatou mei mua mai. Ka nākirokiro mai tātou ‘i te kite ‘i tō tātou tika‘anga tangata ‘i te kite‘anga ‘ē ko‘ai tatou, ‘ē nō‘ea mai tātou. Ka ō mai ki roto ‘i te au ‘ākapapa‘anga kōrero ta‘ito te au tūtū, puka-tūtū, au reta, ‘ē te au ‘ākapapa‘anga peapa pu‘apinga.

Nā roto ‘i te raverave‘anga ‘ē te ‘ākono‘anga ‘i te au ‘apinga ‘akaputu o tō tātou kōpū tangata ‘ē ‘akakite mai ‘i te roa‘anga ‘ō te tuātau ‘ē vai meitaki ai tē reira. Ka rauka i tēia au kaveinga ‘i te tauturu iā koe ‘i te tāporoporo ‘i te au ‘akapapa‘anga kōrero ta‘ito o tō‘ou kōpū tangata nō te au uki ki mua.

‘Ātoro atu


E tūtū ta‘ito, mei roto mai ‘i te ngā‘i vaira‘anga au ‘apinga ta‘ito pu‘apinga ma‘ata, ā te Pacific Islands Education Resource Centre (PIERC), ‘ē te Pū-Ma‘ata Mua ‘ō te PIERC, Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane, mei te au mata‘iti, 1970’s mai.

Our people

Learn how our Museum whānau celebrate their heritage in their work

Rachpal Attari

Rachpal Attari

Kia orana, Turou, Oromai!
Turou kite taua ngutuare, koukouanga ite au tuatua, ete au reo pakari e manganui
Mou te kō, mou te ‘ere
kia pukuru o vaevae, kia mokorā ō kakī
Meitaki maata


My heritage is Indian from dad’s side (Hoshiarpur, Punjab), and Cook Island & Tahitian from my mum’s side (Tauhunu, Manihiki, Cook Islands & Rapa Iti, Rurutu, Tahiti). I work within the Visitor Services department as Visitor Experience & Bookings Manager.

Working within the Museum being part of the front of house team, I am proud to welcome all walks of life. Many of our Pasifika people are always feel lost, confused, or unsure if they are welcomed in the Museum -many still have that old fashioned belief that they cannot come into such an institute. Being front house, myself and my fellow Māori and Pacific colleagues break down those stereotypes and welcome our fellow brothers and sisters with open arms and show them that our Museum -Tāmaki Paenga Hira is open for everyone- especially for them. Seeing & receiving the gratitude and happiness from our Pasifika communities is indescribable, I am proud I can break down those barriers so our communities can enjoy our space and connect with many of our taonga on display.

Walking through the Pacific galleries brings me a sense of calm, a bonding I’m sure we all experience when near taonga that we are familiar with. Seeing our international visitors marvel in awe at our collections naturally brings a sense of pride. Spreading the knowledge of our culture and heritage to all walks of life.

The tivaevae in our Pacific Lifeways gallery brings a sense of pride and joy to me- and I have noticed this with all Cook Island visitors when they see this item. Your eyes light up and you marvel that something that is so common in your home, way of life, is displayed for the rest of the world to see. Every time I walk by it, I always remember my mum, mama Munokoa Purumu Jador and Aunty, mama Edna Greig staying up all night into the early morning hours, stitching tivaevae for a special occasion, always filled with stories and laughter mixed with the soothing hymns and songs of the islands. I hope to pass on this tradition to my children and hope that the next generations hold onto these cultural ways of life.  

Polly and her mum Munokoa Purumu Jador working on tivaevae.

Dive into these stories from the Cook Islands

Explore stories from around Auckland Museum 

The Dragonflies and Damselflies of The Cook Islands

The Dragonflies and Damselflies of The Cook Islands

The Cook Islands (Te Kūki 'Āirani or ʻAvaiki Nui) is a group of 15 islands spread across 2,200,000 km2 of the South Pacific Ocean. Each island is unique and diverse in habitat, flora, and fauna, though unfortunately the true extent of biodiversity is unknown. We're lucky to have some Cook Islands dragonflies and damselflies from Atiu and Rarotonga collected in the 21st century. In this blog for ‘Epetoma ō te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani (Cook Islands Language Week) we take a closer look at the specimens in our collection and what they can teach researchers about the ecology and evolution of these special creatures.

Read more

The mystery of the travelling guitar

The mystery of the travelling guitar

Rarotongan-born Private Tuaine Utanga took a guitar with him on active service. Private Utanga invited his fellow soldiers to sign their names on the guitar's case, which in the end held the signatures of more than 200 of Utanga's fellow New Zealand soldiers. The guitar was an object of much interest to many Museum staff, but neither the guitar, its case nor the associated diary are held in the Museum's collection. So where were they? 

Read more

Kāre e ngaropōina ia mātou a rātou e tuātau `uātu

Kāre e ngaropōina ia mātou a rātou e tuātau `uātu

“Our reo contributes to our identity as Cook Islanders. We are a small nation with a rich and beautiful history that stretches back to primordial beings that have now become part of myth and legend.”

William Kainana Cuthers, Researcher and Academic Writer, has written an article in celebration of Cook Islands Language Week and to commemorate and highlight the legacy of Cook Islands service persons, like his grandfather and namesake William Kiri Cuthers, a Coastwatcher during the Second World War.

Introduction written by Arerangi Tongia.

Read more

The collision and resolution of two fishy mysteries

The collision and resolution of two fishy mysteries

Auckland Museum’s Head of Natural Sciences and avid fish expert, Tom Trnski, shares how a recently opened old box of hand-written notes fills in some long-standing gaps, and opens up a conversation with Cook Islands knowledge holders about the naming of fish.

Read more

The Cook Islands in WWI

Manava Toa

The Cook Islands in WWI

More than 500 Cook Islanders fought for New Zealand in the WWI. They served with distinction but suffered great loss. Find out more about these courageous servicemen.

Read more

Portrait of Lance Corporal John Ropu. Image kindly provided by Teke`u Framhein via Kees De Boer. Image has no known copyright restrictions.

Mapping Mauke and the Cook Islands

In this video for Cook Islands Language Week, Ma’ara Maeva (Tuiātea Learning Specialist) looks at a 1906 map of Mauke and speaks in Cook Islands Māori about the connections it holds to Tāmaki Makaurau.

To learn more, read the blog by Paula Legel (Associate Curator, Heritage Manuscripts) about the history of the maps.

Read the blog


The Art of Tivaevae

In 2022, Fuli Pereira, Curator Pacific curated an outdoor exhibition of photographs of tivaevae from the collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, in collaboration with Britomart for the City of Colour Festival.

Tivaevae are the height of women’s artistic expression within Cook Island and Society Islands communities, both in the islands and abroad. They are the key gift item during significant life ceremonies such as christenings, graduations, weddings, and funerals. Tivaevae (or tifaifai in Tahitian) are treasured heirlooms that feature from the beginning of life to its end.

Tivaevae making is largely a communal undertaking. Vainetini, tivaevae-making groups, are centered around a tivaevae ta’unga, quilting expert, who leads the creation and cutting of patterns and oversees the final form of tivaevae. Familial, village and island pride are bound up in the creativity and skill expressed in tivaevae.

Go behind the scenes to find out more with exhibition curator Fuli Pereira in her interview with Viva.

Read more

"The survival of the language is in the hands of the youth of today."

Watch our interview with Tauraki Raea, Cook Islands Pacific Media Network presenter, as he discusses the dangers of dialect and language loss. 

The motto from Tauraki Rongo Raea: "The survival of the language is in the hands of the youth of today."

Tauraki expresses his worries about his native language being on the brink of extinction, "all efforts should be to ensure that the youth of today have a reason to embrace the reo". In life we all have gifts to help each other. Helping to save his language is something that he has unconsciously been doing and has continued to do throughout his working career. His passion for his language is fueled by the thought that somewhere in the future, someone else will be carrying on this work with the same energy that will benefit all.

See shells

Take a closer look at some beautiful shell specimens from Aitutaki, which were collected from the nearly 20 square kilometres of lagoon that surround the island.


Things to watch

Tune in to some of our engaging Cook Islands Language Week video content

Evotia-Rose: A film by The Raro Dog, Rob George 

To celebrate all our Pacific Language Weeks, Auckland Museum commissioned short films made by Pacific artists and filmmakers based on objects or memories of home. The brief for these films were left intentionally broad to allow the makers to open the vā to be navigated by the makers and knowledge-holders to let the stories, entangled in all Pacific languages, go wherever it needed to.

We wanted these videos to be made by the people for the people of the Pacific. Not an external visitor to the islands filming strangers but connected people who are telling their stories in their own ways. Objects contain so many stories, especially if they have travelled the Great Ocean of Kiwa and now, like so many Pacific peoples, call Aotearoa home.

The Raro Dog aka Rob George decided to produce a short documentary about local Cook Islander, Evotia-Rose Araiti.

Framed within a photography session, Evotia-Rose speaks personally about being a proud Cook Islander and some of the barriers to learning the language and how she overcomes them.

Produced for Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum to celebrate Cook Islands Language Week 2020.

Kia pūāvai tō tātou Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani i Aotearoa

For 2020's Cook Islands Language Week, we held an online discussion session through Zoom on 4 August 2020. It highlighted three Cook Islands fish specimens from the Natural Sciences collection, the Kōkiri (Pinktail triggerfish), the Ka’a (or Kanai, Squaretailed mullet), Vete (Goatfish) and a register of specimens and local names for fish species collected 1926-1934. 

We were delighted to welcome a panel of Cook Islands knowledge holders: Makira Maea (Tokoroa), Taiau Nicholas (Auckland), Dr Teina Rongo (Rarotonga), Ma’ara Maeva (Mauke, now living in Auckland) and Tauraki Rongo (Auckland). Background information about the fish and the Griffin register of fishes were shared by Dr Tom Trnski, and the participants explored Cook Islands fishing practices, dance movements and chants inspired by fish, canoe building, genealogy and the impacts of climate change not only on fishing practices but on the continuance of Cook Islands language.

Our heartfelt gratitude to our panelists for discussing, sharing and coming together with the Museum to enlighten us all. Meitaki Ma’ata.

Learn some Cook Islands Māori

Auckland Museum Learning Specialist Ma'ara Maeva shares some common greetings and phrases in Cook Islands Māori. 

Botany of the Cook Islands 

Auckland Museum's Herbarium holds over 3,500 plant specimens from the Cook Islands, including one thousand plant specimens collected by Thomas Cheeseman, who carried out the first botanical survey in the Cook Islands in 1899. Cheeseman was an acclaimed botanist, and Director of Auckland Museum from 1874-1923.

Explore these specimens held in the Museum's collection from the garden island of Mauke.

By Ewen Cameron, Curator Botany

Heritage publications from the Cook Islands

Inspired by the collaboration between Cook Islands knowledge-holders and our Natural Sciences teams, here Paula Legel (Associate Curator, Heritage Publications) and Leone Samu (Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage - Pacific) feature several fish-themed publications found in our Documentary Heritage collection. 


Paiere : The Making of a Fishing Canoe in Ma‘uke

Paiere : The Making of a Fishing Canoe in Ma‘uke

The first of our highlights is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about the making of a Paiere (fishing canoe) on the island of Ma‘uke in the southern group (also known as Akatokamanava) by Judith Kunzle. Called ‘Paiere : The Making of a Fishing Canoe in Ma‘uke’, and published in 1995 by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project, the book shows, through beautiful watercolours, a group of canoe builders creating a new paiere from scratch. Judith Kunzle lived on Rarotonga for many years and has worked closely with the local knowledge holders to create this demonstration of an important traditional creative process. She has interwoven local Ma‘uke terms (rather than Rarotongan) into the text and acknowledged a number of those who contributed their knowledge; Rairi Rairi, Rangi Moekaa, Mata Taruia, Vavia Mata, Ngavii Tere, Tautara Purea and Noo Aiturau.

A Guide to The Reef Fishes of Palmerston and Suwarrow Atolls, Cook Islands

A Guide to The Reef Fishes of Palmerston and Suwarrow Atolls, Cook Islands

Heading further northward from Ma‘uke, our second and very different publication comes from the two islands of Palmerston and Suwarrow, each having their own romantic and colourful histories. However, this title is one in a series of field reports from the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute published in 1985 on the fish to be found around the reefs of these atolls. ‘A Guide to The Reef Fishes of Palmerston and Suwarrow Atolls, Cook Islands’ is a scientific survey of all the fish the authors K. R. Grange and R. J. Singleton identified from underwater observations and photographs. The colour photographs enable clear identification and there is a short description included of each fish. 

Wild Life Among The Pacific Islanders

Wild Life Among The Pacific Islanders

We then dive back to the 1800s and two titles based around the Cook Islands and in particular, Tongareva (Penrhyn Atoll) and Mangaia.

Wild Life Among The Pacific Islanders’ (published 1867) was written by E. H. Lamont, an American trader and beachcomber who voyaged through the islands of French Polynesia and the Southern Cooks until he eventually washed up on Tongareva in 1853 after the brig “Chatham” was wrecked on the reef. Tongareva (Penrhyn Atoll) is the most remote of the Cook Islands, 1360 kilometres north east of Rarotonga. Lamont and the other survivors were captured by the locals, becoming involved in the local community. In fact, though only on Tongareva a year, Lamont was so involved he had three wives whilst there, before escaping on a canoe he built with Bill, another survivor of the shipwreck. He was picked up by a whaling ship, the “John Appleton” out of New Bedford and so managed to get to Rarotonga. This title has interesting references to fishing at that time, including methods and types of fish caught. You can read the references to fish and fishing in this book online here.

Jottings From The Pacific

Jottings From The Pacific

Our last title is ‘Jottings From The Pacific’ (published 1885), by the Reverend William Gill, a missionary on Mangaia for 20 years and then on Rarotonga until he retired to Sydney in 1883. Reverend Gill published numerous books on the Cook Islands, including translations of religious texts and the bible. Gill was curious and interested in everything, recording all aspects of culture of the communities across the Cook Islands. He was also a keen observer of the natural world as evidenced in the third section of this title called, ‘Zoological and Botanical notes’. In this he documents his learnings of all aspects of marine life, including local terms and customary knowledge gleaned from knowledge holders.  You can also read the references to fish and fishing in this book online here

Another great online resource to access and research fishes, flora and other fauna found in the Cook Islands is the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database developed by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust and hosted by the Bishop Museum based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Common names of different species are often listed alongside their name in Cook Islands Maori as well in Latin. Images, scientific taxonomy, and distribution in the geographic area are also key features of the records in this comprehensive database.

For the kids

Colouring-in sheet

Colour in the fish of the Cook Islands

Colour in the fish of the Cook Islands

Bring to life the beautiful fish found in the clear waters of the Cook Islands. 

Download now