It is so beautiful here in Rarotonga, Cook Islands I can’t explain it well enough. It’s like being
home in Samoa for me, only smaller and with a Cook Island flavour. The flowers, the mountains, the breadfruit and palm trees. The sunlight and the ocean. It is beyond beautiful. I feel so at home, like I’ve taken off an old skin and put on a new one for the next round of adventures. It's so easy to go offline and relax here in the Islands. Even my lack of sleep is not enough to dull my senses, perhaps it’s heightened them!
I’ve always wanted to come to the Cook Islands to explore and learn more about their weaving and tivaevae so it’s a dream that I am here. What I could not have imagined is being here with a project that I am so passionate about, that uses my love for weaving to create space for people to share their work and solutions for ending violence and healing. For me, this project is the perfect platform for me to visit communities across the world, not just to experience their beautiful and diverse lands and cultures but to exchange stories and ideas of how we support our communities to deal with and heal from violence. Already I recognise that the best gift you can give a lot of these communities, is to just listen to the challenges, issues and success stories (oh my gosh, I can hear log drums in the distance. So incredible!!... Sorry, I transgress). This is such an important thing to do as well, to reach out and take interest and care in what other communities and people are doing to tackle violence in their communities. I remember some words that Mark (my amazing partner) told me recently about the significance of my travel this year for the One Million Stars project partnership with the GC2018. “You’re not just going in to weave a star and share the project with Weave100 Communities or new communities who want to participate. You have the incredible privilege of hearing first hand their stories and their journey of what they are doing to end violence in their communities. You get to meet them and acknowledge them. A woven star from these communities means that they are adding their light and their solidarity to the One Million Stars movement.” Brilliant words and so true!
Deeper layers of the project are continually being revealed. And it happens every time I talk with others about it. I love hearing others share their reflections on what weaving stars for this project means for them. Merita Wi-Kaitaia's mama (Merita is one of the leaders/Producers of the WEave100 Community here at Punanga Tauturu Inc. Cook Islands Womens Conselling Centre), Catherine Evans, a Crown Counsel at Crown Law Office says, “There’s so much work to do, and this is a beautiful clever way for us to share what we are doing across the Pacific and the world. We love it.” For me, it is the stars and the light that is connecting people and their efforts to end violence across the world. The beauty and power of the star is that anyone can learn to make one, the star is our common and uniting language.
I'll be meeting local artists, weavers and tivavae masters over the next 2 weeks and I'll also be running star weaving workshops with schools, Women’s groups, art and craft groups. I'll even have enough time to experience the arts and culture of this place. I’m told that Cook Islanders love to travel and many fly in and out for work or pleasure. Even the judges have to fly in from New Zealand because it’s such a small place where most know each other and so that there’s not a conflict of interest. Tourism is important here, like for many island nations, and there is a very strong network and connectivity between agencies across the Pacific. They may be small in size and scattered across the Pacific Ocean but they are resourceful and supportive where they can be.
Half of my suit case was full of ribbon on my trip over here because the weavers have run out of ribbon on the island. I'll probably replace the space they took up for some goodies for family and friends. I even get to do hula class with some of the ladies tomorrow night and some Island nights at one of the resorts. One thing I will definitely make sure I do while I am here is eat local fresh food!!!