Stitching to the back-bone: A Cook Islands literary tivaivai

Literature Cook Islands
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This thesis produces a survey of Anglophone Cook Islands literature and from it, recognises some key Cook Islands literary aesthetics. The rationale for this thesis rests on the considerable contributions Cook Islands writers have made to the wider Pacific literary field during the formative years of Pacific literature (1960s and 1970s) and acknowledges the key role scholars and writers such as Majorie Tuainekore Crocombe, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Kauraka Kauraka and Makiuti Tongia, played in this early literary production. These figures provided an important space for Cook Islands writers to come, the result of which has created an impressive and compelling body of Cook Islands writing – one that, until this thesis, had not been fully surveyed in detail. In undertaking this mapping exercise, the Cook Islands art of quilting/tivaivai has been employed as a conceptual framework for the thesis. Key critical works by noteworthy Pacific writers, theorists and scholars have been consulted and referred to throughout this research, while attempting to adopt a Cook Islands world-view in the close-reading of these texts. To synthesize the key features of a Cook Islands literary aesthetic, this thesis gives critical treatment to four of the earliest Cook Islands poets who have not been given thorough critical treatment in any other piece of scholarship to date. They are: Makitui Tongia, Kauraka Kauraka, Va’ine Iro-Nui Rasmussen and Jean Tekura’i’imoana Mason. The thesis concludes by reflecting on the main facets of what is a communal Cook Islands literary aesthetic. It reflects on examples drawn from the analyses and historiography of the field. Finally, a brief discussion of the current state of the conceptual tivaivai – the Cook Islands literary field – is given, with some comment on the possible future for Cook Islands literature.

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