Di took Ike to the Mahara Gallery in Waikanae, in New Zealand, Aotearoa. Ike was excited to see what the new exhibition was all about – Toi Whakarākai: Ngā Aho o te Whenua. This special winter exhibition was made possible by 30 renowned Māori weavers and carvers who are past and present students and tutors of Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a Māori tertiary academic centre based in Otaki on the Kāpiti Coast.
Materials used to produce artefacts such as those on display include flax, fibres and leaves from climbing plants, supplejack vine, sea urchin (kina) shells, seaweed and both traditional and non-traditional dyes. There are many different weave patterns or styles and techniques such as plaiting and braiding which are inspired by nature. Each represents different spiritual meanings when used in borders, wall decoration, baskets, fishing nets or items of clothing.
So, what are a few of the intrinsic themes? Matariki (Pleiades star cluster or Māori New Year) is a celebration that occurs between the months of July and August. The nine stars of Matariki are individually significant and reflect Māori perspectives of hope and aspirations about our world, our human wellbeing and our connection to land. Much traditional knowledge is passed on regarding food provision, harvesting and cultural heritage. Sonia Snowden is a world-famous weaver who designed and produced three successive Matariki themed baskets entitled ‘Tātai Whetū ki Te Rangi’ in 2008, 2012 and 2020.
Another common theme is the representation of Māori proverbs (Whakataukī) that are a culmination of Māori cultural language, a form of messaging or meaning regarding cultural practices and Māori history. One such example is mixed media woven piece entitled ‘Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua’ by artist Tracey Patete. It signifies the proverb ‘As man disappears from sight, the land remains’ which symbolises all-encompassing Māori values as well as the highest acclaim to Papatuanuku (Earth Mother). The colours and patterns of the pieces represent the transitory nature of man’s presence on the land and how the land remains after people disappear from this realm.
Ike’s favourite woven artefacts were the fishing baskets created by Anne Drenah Kākā in 2018. The main theme explores Māori claims to land and natural resource management (harvest) in the fish and eel industries. There is also a deeper historical and political meaning to their creation which is that of the struggle by Māori to reclaim their land from The Crown which have largely been difficult and slow to acknowledge over time. The eel net is significant in that there is no way out once an eel is caught; just swimming in perpetual circles. In 2011, the struggle finally culminated in the WAI 262 claim under the Waitangi Tribunal which finally addressed the ownership and use of Maori knowledge, cultural expressions, indigenous species of flora and fauna, treasures, inventions and products derived from indigenous flora and fauna.
The featured image to this post shows another piece by Anne Drenah Kākā – ‘Ngā Puhi Taruke’ – Eel net – 2018.
Elaine Bevan’s series entitled ‘He ketetahora’ – A metaphor created in 2020 reflects upon …
Whakapapa states that te Iwi Māori, although originally from the Pleiades, began their earthly life and sojourn from deep within the womb of Mother Earth (Papatuanuku), as a single celled embryo, and over eons of time, he gradually traversed his way upwards to the surface of the planet undergoing many coursings and transformations whilst doing so.
Hinepūororangi Tahupārae’s ‘Kete Tāhahi’ or ‘The plentiful gifts of Tangaroa’ was created in 2019 with inspiration drawn from respect and admiration for ancient weavers whom left modern Māori weavers a legacy to follow and contribute to survival of these treasures. She uses flax fibre to weave a versatile yet humble raw form of kumara (sweet potato) basket. These are still in use today across the Pacific Islands.
Overall, this exhibition was truly inspiring and magnificent to see! A wide representation of artefacts with deeply spiritual themes created from a wide range of flax types, weaving patterns/styles and techniques, many being used together with other media. Ike thoroughly enjoyed his second Māori experience.
This is the final post from Di and Ike, they have been truly excellent; if you haven’t seen them all you can select them by clicking on a marker of this map: