Cook Island Kumete Bowls: A Traditional Craft

The Cook Islands, a group of fifteen islands located in the South Pacific, have a rich cultural heritage that includes traditional crafts such as woodcarving. One of the most iconic and functional examples of Cook Island woodcarving is the kumete bowl, which is used for serving food during feasts and special occasions. Here we will explore the materials, designs, and sizes of Cook Island kumete bowls, as well as their meaning and origin. 

Meaning and Origin of Cook Island Kumete Bowls 

In Cook Island culture, the kumete bowl is considered a symbol of hospitality and generosity. It is used for serving food during feasts and other special occasions, and is often passed around so that everyone can share in the meal. The kumete bowl is also sometimes used in ceremonial contexts, such as when offering food to the gods or spirits. 

The origins of the kumete bowl are rooted in Cook Island history and culture. Woodcarving has long been an important craft in the Cook Islands, with skilled carvers creating a variety of objects, including canoes, musical instruments, and household items. The kumete bowl is believed to have been introduced to the Cook Islands by Polynesian settlers who arrived on the islands around 800 AD. Over time, the design and use of the kumete bowl evolved to become an important part of Cook Island culture. 

Materials Used in Cook Island Kumete Bowls 

Cook Island kumete bowls are typically made from local hardwoods, which are selected for their durability, hardness, and fine grain that allows for intricate carving. Some of the most commonly used woods include: 

Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum): This hardwood is prized for its durability and resistance to decay. It has a dark, rich color and a fine, even grain that is ideal for carving. 

Miro (Prumnopitys ferruginea): This hardwood has a beautiful golden color and a fine, straight grain that is prized by woodcarvers. It is also known for its durability and resistance to rot. 

Tou –

Teek –

Designs and Sizes of Cook Island Kumete Bowls 

Cook Island kumete bowls come in a range of sizes and designs, depending on their intended use and the creativity of the carver. Some bowls are small and delicate, while others are large enough to hold several servings of food. The designs of kumete bowls can also vary widely, with some featuring intricate carvings of geometric patterns or symbols, while others have more simple, understated designs. 

In general, Cook Island kumete bowls are carved from a single piece of wood, with the outer edges of the bowl often carved in a scalloped or rounded shape. Some bowls also have decorative handles or legs, while others have a flat base that allows them to be placed on a table or other surface. Overall, the design and size of a kumete bowl depends on the intended use and the creativity of the carver. 

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