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Object: Päreu kiri’au (Hula Skirt)

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Title Päreu kiri’au (Hula Skirt)
Materials fibre
Classification hula skirts
Dimensions Overall: 433mm (Length) x 794mm (Width)
Credit line Gift of Mrs E. M. Paterson, 1954
Registration number FE008352

This striking 1920s pareu kiri’au (hula skirt) from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, is made from long narrow strips of hibiscus bast fibre. Around the waistband, is blue cloth, with orange and yellow diamonds,which have been machine sewn onto the band. At the base of the waistband, hang red-dyed tassels, each tied with a single puka seed. The base of the pareu has been dipped in red dye, providing a contrast to the natural colour of the pareu. This example combines natural and imported products, with a preference for blue cloth, and red dye. The tassels around the hips, add another layer of movement, once the dancer is in full motion.

Dance costumes are often made to capture the graceful and vigorous movements of the dancer. At times costume makers combine natural materials with imported and manufactured goods. As curators, we look for colour and style to indicate a specific time period, while providing a clue about the wearer, and the maker.

Acquisition history

This pareu, collected in the early 1920s, was gifted, along with other items, to the museum by Edith Paterson in 1954. Edith and her husband John worked and travelled intermittently in the Cook Islands during the 1920s, when John helped to build the Avarua wharf in Rarotonga.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.