My Cook Islands – The costumes for dancing

16 Apr

One of the art forms that the Cook Islands is well know for is the dancing.  Although it is the dancing and the drums without the costumes it just would not be as dramatic and breathtaking.  The pacific islanders have an eye for detail and have learnt over the centuries to use what is around them for their dance costumes.

Dancing costume

Most costumes are made from the nature that is around them, such as discarded coconuts, these are sanded with coconut oil and sandpaper until they have a beautiful shiny shell then transformed into the coconut bra for the girls.

Dancing costume

Pandanus and Coconut leaves are dried, and dyed to create grass skirts, head pieces etc… and shells are collected off the beach, boiled, dyed and made into necklaces or sewn onto the costumes.

Dance Group

Fresh and dried plants are used for the costumes and when put together create beautiful pieces.

One of the most important parts of the costumes for the girls is the titi, this is the piece that fits around the waist, it is made to enhance the swing of the hips during the dance.  This piece is made for both the females and the male costumes.

Male costumes


26 Responses to “My Cook Islands – The costumes for dancing”

  1. betty zhang April 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Great blogs. well down!!!

  2. Cilla Poa-Heighway June 11, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Hi Mani,

    Thanks for your note, it all depends on what type of dance your school is performing. Are you looking to make traditional costuming with the grass/nylon hula skirts, or are you looking at using the pareu (sarong) with fresh leaves for the titi (belt) around the waist.

    Traditional grass skirts, can be made from Raffia which you should be able to source from a craft shop it can be costly though but the costumes can be kept for a long time if stored correctly.
    You can also make skirts from rice sacks where you cut them down the seam to open it up then unweave it but leave the top part about 10cm where you will use this as the belt, you will need miminum of 10 layers ,once you have the required thickness then you would sew them together into a waistband and you can use a tie system or hook and eye. You may be able to buy them but I imagine that they may be very costly.

    My suggestion is to use the pareu, and have quite flamboyant headpieces and titis (waistband), check out these pictures to give you ideas.

    For the waistband and headpieces, you can use anything such as raffia, feathers, leaves and plant material, if you use these they need to be made the night before and can then be kept in the fridge to be kept fresh.

    I hope this is helpful to you, if you have any cook islanders in your group it might be helpful asking their parents for assistance, even if they dont know themselves their parents might know, it is a dying art and most generations dont really know what to do. Good luck.


    • Ardz May 15, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      Kiaora Cilla.

      Do you make the Cookisland hula skirts with the Tiiti attached? if so how much do you charge for one? Iv been looking for a few years now. I have 2 mates that are coming to NZ from the USA and would like to give them a Cookisland uniform as a koha

  3. Tim Koia October 11, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Hi Cilla,

    Im just paying a high commendation for your contribution to the world, it makes me proud to see Cook Islander taking on new challenges and promoting the Cook Islands itself. Good stuff

    • Cilla Poa-Heighway October 16, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      Thanks Tim, really appreciate the message, we have talent out there and we produce beautiful things and we should share it

      • jessica March 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

        hey do yuh sell the costume i kinda need one foa a 21st

  4. turcanin June 7, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Reblogged this on turcanin. cu ţ..

    • tepaeru February 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      love yur web LOL

      • tepaeru February 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

        ofa an i is working on a project

      • Cilla Poa-Heighway March 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        thank you for your comment

  5. Emaleta Feletoese December 30, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    hi i would like to know how to make the niau blanc or the coconut fibres made from the young coconut leaves mostly used on the head piece?

  6. tepaeru February 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    show me how you make the full costume for my schools project lol 🙂

  7. Shylo March 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Hey Cilla do you have a tutorial on how to make a titi belt out of feathers ? like the girl in the purple on this website?

  8. Renay Duffy April 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Hi, my name is Renay from Lynfield College and next year I’m taking the Cook Island group and would love some help as to how I can make these beautiful costumes or where I may get them for a not too expensive price. please and thank you

    • SANA November 14, 2013 at 11:59 am #

      is this college in auckland ?

  9. Gloria December 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Nice costume…..

  10. GILBERT THONG July 8, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Am from New Caledonia visiting soon Cook Islands. Am interested in purchasing dancing costumes for my staff in Guam -5 boys & 6 girls dancers)
    Kindly give me your contact so I shall discuss with you
    Kind regards

  11. Ezra December 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

    Kia Ora im a maori weaver and would love to be able to source some kiriau for a costume do you know we’re I could get this fiber from thats not to expensive ?

  12. Zane April 28, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Hi, I was wondering if you knew where to buy big bundles of raffia and ship to NZ?

  13. joycinda pakipaki June 13, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    great efffort

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