27 Oct 2015

Future of traditional Maori weaving in good hands

8:22 pm on 27 October 2015

More than 300 weavers attended the biannual Weavers National hui held in Ahipara in the Far North over the weekend.

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Photo: 123RF

The national weavers group -Te Rōpū Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa - hosted the hui and use it as a time for weavers to share their knowledge, learn new techniques and show-off their work.

The groups' chairperson Christina Wirihana believes the traditional art forms future is in good hands.

In the mid 1950s it was identified by the Māori Womens' Welfare league that the art form of Māori weaving was in threat of dying

In 1983 a call went out to all weavers to come together and what is now known as Te Rōpū Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa was formed.

"In 1983 Kingi Ihaka and Ngoingoi Pewhairangi called together weavers and those interested in the kaupapa to meet at the marae in Tokomaru Bay," said Ms Wirihana.

Ms Wirihana said the group helped weavers realise there were others out there, which gave them great enthusiasm.

"There is always weaving happening and sometimes people felt more comfortable at home, but once we stepped outside our home and meet other weavers, we inspired one another and shared ideas, which we took back to our own community."

Ms Wirihana said the opportunity to network and share knowledge had helped the future of weaving and many young weavers loved meeting senior weavers who they had only read about.

But the resource some weavers used for their works was now at risk, especially the kuta or paopao or the giant spike rush.

The soft, flattened, hollow stalks of the kuta are a popular resource for weavers. Once harvested they're placed under matting for about three days to flatten, then woven into soft hats, mats, and kete.

Ms Wirihana said the tubal reed grows in slow moving streams and lakes and the quality of the resource depended on the depth of the water, so if where they were growing was drained or water levels decreased, it affected the quality of the kuta because what grows beneath the water is best to weave with.

The next national hui will be held in two years time at Hinekura Marae in Rotorua.