Dr. Donna Campbell
Ngā Puhi and Ngāti Ruanui
On Friday the 15th of August I attended, along with over 200 others the relaunch of the (affectionately known) kākahu book at Te Papa. Officially titled Whatu Kākahu / Māori Cloaks. It was a regal affair with all manner of kākahu Māori being worn. The kākahu on display conveying the myriad of natural and synthetic materials available to kairaranga and kaiwhatu to invent and express fashion, and culture. After a rousing karanga we climbed the stairs up to Te Marae Rongomaraeroa to be greeted by the staff and hau kainga. After the formalities of the pōwhiri the floor was opened by Kaihautū at Te Papa Arapeta Hakiwai. Then Te Hemoata Henare as the Chairperson of Te Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa said a few words followed by the editor of the kākahu book Awhina Tamarapa acknowledging everyone who had a part in the launch of the new edition.
The Panel left to right Tangimoe Clay, Christina Wirihana, Hamuera Robb, Dr Patricia Wallace, and Dr Maureen Lander
The afternoon presented us with a panel of practitioners who reminisced on their early influences in weaving reminding us all of the many people who have contributed to their practices today.
Tina remembered the many influences she had as she was growing up, the environment and the stimuli that have made her the innovative and prolific kairaranga whatu artist today. Being the first practitioner to be employed as a raranga teacher in a tertiary institution Waiariki Polytech (now OHOMAI) Tina broke new ground in terms of delivering raranga as part of multidisciplinary art school.
Hamuera expressed his passion in the preparation of materials and the whatu processes of kākahu, acknowledging the strong influences of his kuia. He considers his practice a legacy that has been handed on to him from his Nan.
Patricia reminded us of the necessity for research to recover through textile the many voices that have gone before us. In particular she called for research on the collars of korowai, the rich array of plaits and finishing that could be re-discovered.
Tangimoe Clay expressed te pā harakeke as the fundamental influence for her passion with raranga. Her kuia, kõroua and whanau as well as importantly Mick Pendergrast as key people in her creative journey. Her kaupapa is about “maintaining the mana of raranga”. Tangimoe claimed the space of the inventor and creator of poi Ika reminding us that the use of plastic to create poi, is not a cultural expression and no longer a sustainable practice. She elaborated on the process of preparing the skins and her niece demonstrated the sound of the poi.
The dream of waka being propelled by woven sails in the Hokianga was elucidated by Maureen Lander. Her fascination with Te Raa the only known sail in existence which is housed in the British Museum has sparked the interest of many weavers, myself included. Maureen has been re-presenting our weaving materials back to us for many years with her installative works and by encouraging weavers to make new work in response to Te Raa she is sharing her creative process.
Aroha Mitchell and Tangimoe Clay
It was wonderful to hear that some of these kairaranga whatu were taught by their nannies, and on their marae. The learning of the weaving arts for many of us comes in various forms, as was my first learning through Polytech with Tina who inspired in me the possibilities and passion for raranga. This learning I believe saved my life, reframed the way I thought about myself and my culture into positive thoughts. I would have loved to return to the marae, to be nurtured and taught these art forms from my Nan. However, the impact of colonisation on our art forms has disrupted the intergenerational transfer of knowledge, and for many of us this not a possibility. Many of us experience disconnection from whanau, from marae and from our own culture but through the arts we are reclaiming this mātauranga Māori. Raranga and whatu are art forms that reconnect us back to ourselves and to our tupuna. Such as our research with our taonga tuku iho Te Raa, as we engage with the raranga techniques, more and more the genius of tupuna shines through. Ultimately as we learn about raranga and whatu we learn about ourselves as well as our whenua when engage with our embodied mātauranga Māori.
To everyone out there who wants to learn to raranga – novice or established I say that if we want to learn we need to seize on that knowledge however we can, in whatever form it appears for us.
Matekino Lawless, Christina Wirihana, Tangimoe Clay,Ranui Ngarimu.
Dr. Donna Campbell, Ranui Ngarimu and Dr. Catherine Smith
The panel were revisioning their creative practice, claiming space and drawing the lines where they felt their contributions lay in contemporary practice today. Listening to these kairaranga whatu share the whakapapa of their practice helps us all to remember that this artform does not belong to the individual alone, and how we respect each other, and our practices impacts the future our mokopuna will inherit.