Experience and Appreciate Our Culture

The culture in the Cook Islands is moulded with Polynesian heritage with a little mix of European influence. A medley of magical islands shrouded with legends of the pirates, intruders and treasures, all of which have formed the traditions and customs of the islanders that shaped their unique identity.

The Call of the Drum

The stories of marauders, plunderers, and adventurous seafarers are part of the history of the islands. What makes the Cook Islanders so unique is the call of the drum. The local entertainers in the Cook Islands are considered to be the best and arguably the finest in the Pacific. Their graceful acts of drumming and dancing will bring you on a spiritual journey like anyone who has experienced the traditional Ura. The music, stories of love and passion form the cultural heritage in the island that is alive and going strong.

Music of the Cook Islands

The most unique form of music in the Cook Islands is the call of the drum – the perfect pounding of a tattoo on hollowed tree trunks is a talent learnt from past generations. Music is a part of life in the islands. The songs of the Kaparima, hymns from the church, from the choirs on Sunday to the combination of electronic and traditional ukuleles made from coconut shells, these are the quality of music that pulsates around the islands. Music festivals with competitions are held annually in the Cook Islands where winners are awarded as testament to their talents.

Arts and Crafts

Locally produced arts and crafts in the Cook Islands are considered to be the best products made by the finest artists and carvers in the Pacific. These products including decorative wood carvings, tattoos and tapa cloth designs that have the touch of the spirit of the island are in great display in many shops. Early missionaries in the islands considered tattooing to be a taboo in the mid 1880s, but luckily this tradition survived. Most of the designs and motifs derived from ancient folklore are now worn with pride that symbolizes island heritage.

The making of wood carving in the island is revered by visitors. The Tangaroa symbolises the Cook Islands and always a favourite pick by visitors. In the museums, you will find great examples of wood carvings like huge hollowed out bowls, storyboards and war clubs as well as the invincible spears and fish hooks. According to story, the ancient islanders carved the poles of their huts, their canoes, and even their weapons.

The weaving of baskets or hats is part of the island tradition that is still practiced until now. Pandanus, or kikau and coconut fibre are the materials used for weaving. Rito is probably the most popular. Baskets are useful for every islander from collecting shellfish, for fishing, and for carrying crops and putting in the umu in the old days. The islanders also make sandals, fishing nets, ropes and eel traps out of sinnet that come from coconut tree. The hats, fans, and mats that come from both pandanus and rito are the true treasures of the Cook Islands.

The Polynesian heritage and culture of the islanders can be seen in museums, galleries and in many old sites.