By Matariki Williams
As many of you will probably know, it is school holidays time and Te Papa is buzzing with the energy of its many extra little visitors. Kahu Ora is no exception and when I went in to talk to the new weavers in residence, I was very happy to see the exhibition filled with people. As earlier mentioned, the group joining us this week is Raranga Kākahu, Raranga Tāngata, Raranga Whakapapa and yesterday we had Matthew McIntyre-Wilson and Mark Sykes weaving in the studio. When I walked in, they were both surrounded by inquisitive visitors of all ages and happily explaining what it is that they were working on.
For Matthew this will be a hīeke, like his earlier pākē, but with more some similarities to a kahu toi. He explained the similarities being that the ends will be plaited to make it more robust against wear. Also, like kahu toi, all materials are used. The copper from inside the cables is stripped out to form the tags and the plastic outer forms the foundation of the cloak. The copper is then rolled to make it flatter and give it more of a tag-like shape. This experimental approach, whereby he learnt by doing, is a recurring theme of Matthew’s work and I like how the art form is evolving in his hands. Like his pākē, this hieke is made from electrical cables. These were donated to him by General Cables in Christchurch after he approached them about this project. They were generous enough to give him 100 metres of cable in three different colours, red, black and white, and he has invited them up to see them worked into a new life.
No material is wasted as Matthew uses the offcuts to create necklaces, one of which is also on show in the weavers’ studio. This process is an interesting comparison to Mark’s weaving with more traditional natural fibres. Mark is also making a pākē but is using neinei and pingao which will be layered as piu or tags.
When I entered the weavers’ studio, Mark was explaining to a very engaged young lady about how to prepare the flax for weaving. Her mother and sister then stood to the side having a go with some flax he gave them. This kept them busy for some time until she came back and asked him if she could keep it. It was so sweet seeing this exchange and the pride of the young lady in what she had made. Being in the weavers studio I could hear multiple conversations regarding what the weavers were doing; a mother to a daughter “This is the muka” and another lady at Mark’s table explaining to other visitors about the materials being used.
There is a touch table in the studio that has native birds feathers, a patu muka that is used to beat harakeke, a mussel shell that is used to strip harakeke and various other weaving materials. As I was standing there, multiple people came up to touch the kiwi feathers with awed whispers of “this is kiwi”. Then two very excited kids spotted someone who must have been their favourite host: Hohepa Potini. They implored him to show them how to strip the flax again and he willingly obliged. It is a veritable melting pot of knowledge in the weavers’ studio with the weavers, visitors and hosts all bouncing off one another and being passed to a new generation. This human interface is part of what makes Kahu Ora such a beautiful exhibition to experience and seeing how positively all of the visitors feel about it is indisputable proof. So once again, a big mihi to the weavers who were in the studio and those who are to come.
Today, and for the rest of the weekend, the full roopu will be in so come in and meet Sorrel Kemp and Hiri Crawford.
From next week, a lecture series will be starting in accordance with Kahu Ora called Tuitui Kōrero. Next Thursday, Karl Leonard and Morehu Flutey-Henare will talk about how weaving is transferred from artist to artist. It will be at the Marae on Level 4 from 12:30 to 1:30 and entry is free, so come and have a listen.