Cook Islands Traditions,  Culture, and Customs

COOK ISLANDERS are mainly Polynesians. The culture of the area is super diverse. The northern islands were settled way back around 8AD by people from the west, including Samoa and Tonga. Not to be outdone, locals from the Society Islands and Tahiti flocked to the Southern Islands to make their home. By the time the Europeans arrived in the late 18th century, island culture on every single one of the 15 islands was thriving.

Although fun-loving and friendly, Cook Islanders, like Tahitians and other Polynesians, are a conservative and generally religious people who hold on to their customary way of life and culture.

You will be enchanted by tiny 4 or 5 year old children performing in the traditional dances with pride and amazing skill. The art of dance is taken very seriously in the Cooks. Each island has its own special dances and these are practised assiduously from early childhood. There are numerous competitions throughout the year on each island.

Close harmony singing is highly developed in church music and the power and emotional impact of chants and hymns at weddings and funerals is well known to visitors who attend.

THE OUTER islands produce traditional weaving of mats, basketware and hats. Particularly fine examples of rito hats are worn by women to church on Sundays. They are made from the uncurled fibre of the coconut palm and are of very high quality.

A MAJOR art form in the Cook Islands is tivaevae. This is, in essence, the art of making handmade patchwork quilts. Introduced by the wives of missionaries in the 19th century, the craft grew into a communal activity and is probably one of the main reason it became a popular Cook Islands tradition.

Girl dancing

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