Oe – when art and heritage meet

Thursday November 28, 2019 Written by Published in Entertainment
Mike Tavioni at the Gallery Tavioni vaka art exhibition opening. 19112726 Mike Tavioni at the Gallery Tavioni vaka art exhibition opening. 19112726

Classic wooden racing blades donated by famous paddlers from around the Pacific hang alongside works of paddle art. Anneka Brown reports from Mike Tavioni’s new exhibition at Gallery Tavioni.


For many years artist and gallery owner, Mike Tavioni has been carving and making wooden canoes and paddles.

And as a founding member of the Cook Islands Canoeing Association, he still feels a love for the sport.

Tavioni is overjoyed to host the paddle exhibition, usually held in conjunction with the Vaka Eiva Festival but, this year, held independently.

The heritage of Oe Vaka has come to life with the vast variety of paddle designs on display at Gallery Tavioni. At the opening, Tavioni recalled trading paddles with some of the greats – one of whom, Hawai’i’s Samson Rodrigues, is still paddling at this year’s Vaka Eiva 2019.

But the paddles that are available for sale will never see the water. They are pieces of art, some intricately carved with traditional Cook Islands motifs, others painted in bright blues portraying the beauty of the ocean and the journey of Oe Vaka.

Artists displaying their work include Grace Henry, Brent Holley and Ra – an Baghdad-born painter and sculptor who created a paddle inscribed with Arabic script and dedicated to his “Pacific princess”, wife Joy Allsworth.

“It was a fantastic show, we have had people coming in all day,” said Tavioni.

The paddle itself, said Tavioni, is a symbol of Cook Islands culture and tradition but he was thoroughly impressed by the ideas and designs from the multiple artists who told stories with their art work.

The exhibition will be open for another week and all the paddles and artwork in Gallery Tavioni are for sale.


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