MEET MIKE AND AWHITIA TAVIONI
Michael Teatuakaro Tavioni is a Cook Islands cultural icon and founder of Gallery Tavioni and Vananga. His artistic career spans over fifty years with a repertoire which includes tattooist, poet, writer, orator, composer and painter. He is renown across the Pacific for being a traditional master carver of stone, shell and wood and builder of ocean-going outrigger canoe or vaka
with the rare ability to carve out and ready a vaka in one day.
Mike recalls, in his younger days, that Cook Islands artists would hang their art on the trees through Avarua town (the capital of Rarotonga). This was their only option to exhibit and sell their art works. It was during this time that Mike had the dream to one day build his own gallery so that all Cook Islands artists could come together to collaborate, exhibit and sell their art works.
Over time, Mike's dream of having a gallery evolved to include teaching others about Cook Islands culture and traditional practices through different artistic mediums.
Awhitia Tavioni is Mikes wife and a renowned master carver in her own right. Awhitia’s talent was nurtured and grown through Mike's guidance and encouragement. Awhitia and Mike’s door has always been open. Before the gallery existed, visitors would come to their home to learn from Mike. The formation of a purpose-built space where this could be done with more space and functionality was simply an extension of a practice they have always catered for out of their own home.
It is from Mike’s passion for his heritage, his tupuna, his people and future generations that Gallery Tavioni and Vananga was born.
It is with the help of volunteers, supporters, family and friends – that the legacy has been able to grow and continue to develop.
Today, Gallery Tavioni and Vananga is a cultural arts centre, a creative workshop, an education facility, a hub for artists, friends and family. Come connect and create with us.