'I call it recycling' - unusual partnership develops between Sikh community and retired Cook Islands women over sacred cloth

The Sikh temple in South Auckland is packed with worshippers coming to reflect, hear religious verses and to give their thanks every weekend.

"When the peoples are blessed with any happiness, they are coming in to offer the ramala sahib," the Supreme Sikh Society's Daljit Singh said.

Rumala sahib are beautiful fabrics, of which hundreds are offered up as altar cloths every month.

The cloths, used in religious ceremonies ranging from "a few minutes" up to several hours, are then packed away to be disposed of through burning.

The Takanini temple alone was burning around one tonne a year, releasing more than 3.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

However, a world-first partnership has been developed between the Sikh community and retired Cook Islands women.

"What we are trying to do is give it a new life, save it from burning it. I call it recycling," said Ms Teariki, of the Cook Islands Ta'okotai'anga Vainetini community group.

The Cook Islanders are thrilled to be among community groups receiving the donated fabric, although it took a while getting used to at the beginning.

"They are looking at this beautiful material that you probably wear as a ball gown and, because of the sacred nature of where it came from, cutting it seemed not a nice thing to do," the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand's Rouruina Emil'e-Brown said.

The Cook Island Mamas, respected elderly women, have recycled the fabric to create traditional quilting, known as tivaivai, pillowcases and bags.

Now, the Cook Islands group is organising an exhibition for October showcasing Cook Islands creative arts and incorporating material donated from the Sikh community.

The two groups have learned a lot about each other from their world-first partnership.

"We are on a journey of discovery, too. The pieces of material that are being incorporated into a very old craft its telling a new story," Ms Emil'e-Brown said.

"It's an unusual partnership but, you know what? God said whatever the colour is and the blood is, we are as one," Ms Teariki said.

Huge numbers of Ramala Sahib – beautiful fabrics – are disposed of after religious ceremonies, but now they’re being put to good use. Source: 1 NEWS