After being away from work for over two months it was such a joy to see the Kahu Ora exhibition again. Over 48,000 people have visited so far in the two and a half months since its opening. That’s really amazing. One of the aims of this exhibition was to bring the cloaks out from their storeroom drawers “into the light of day”, so that people are able to see some of the rare and significant Māori cloaks of Te Papa, and learn more about this important, living art-form. It’s great to see so many people are enjoying this experience and is a testament to all the contributors and staff who made the exhibition happen.
Within Kahu Ora is a space specially dedicated for weavers to show the public exactly how much skill, dedication and knowledge is required for cloak weaving. There is no denying that actually seeing and talking to weavers in action is the best way to understand the intricacies of this highly specialised practice. There have been many ‘magic’ moments between visitors and weavers to date. Last week a gentleman came in to show the weavers a beautiful cloak that he had woven. He was from Levin and aged 80 years old. Remarkable! Thank you Lizzie, Te Papa Host, for taking the photo.
‘Te Roopu Miro’, expert weaver Veranoa Hetet and her students Joy Andersen, Robin Bargh and Susan Luke, are the current resident weavers in the Kahu Ora weaver’s studio. At least two weavers at a time will be demonstrating cloak weaving from Wednesday to Sunday 12pm-4pm, until the 2nd September. Veranoa, of Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāti Maniapoto descent, teaches from her papakainga community base at Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt. Veranoa comes from generations of illustrious artists; her parents being the late Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, a master weaver and Rangi Hetet, a master carver. Veranoa’s great grand mother was Dame Rangimarie Hetet, Rangi’s grandmother and a beloved, highly acclaimed master weaver.
Veranoa has three beautiful cloaks on display in the weaver’s studio, two that she wove especially to be displayed in the Kahu Ora exhibition. ‘Tuhono’ is a contemporary work of black dyed muka fibre plaited in the whiri technique, incorporating panels of paua shell. Veranoa explained that the cloak is an expression of the joining of the sea (as in the paua shell) and land (as in the muka) elements that represent her and her sea loving carver husband Sam Hauwaho.
‘Tuakana’ is a stunning, white muka cloak that has very fine houheria or lace bark strands, interwoven in an intricate design on the back of the cloak. Veranoa named this cloak ‘Tuakana’, meaning senior, to pay homage to the ancient weaving connections that Māori have to the Pacific peoples. The cloak is expertly shaped like the ‘ahu ‘ula, or Hawaiian feather cloaks. Veranoa has used houheria to reference its use through other parts of the Pacific.
Joy Andersen comes from Foxton and is also affiliated to Ngāti Kapumanawawhiti, Otaki, through her mother. She currently lives in Island Bay, Wellington. Joy was first inspired by Erenora, Veranoa’s mother, in 2006, after watching Erenora and a group of other weavers on the marae at Te Papa. She remembers admiring Erenora as she wove. Weaving was always something that Joy’s mother wanted them to learn together. Unfortunately that did not come to pass, but by chance a few years later, Joy read about Veranoa’s classes. She joined, and from that point, says, “I got hooked.”
Joy says she enjoys working with harakeke (NZ flax, Phormium tenax) generally. She likes to weave big kete or baskets called wahakura. Joy made one at the same time as a hieke, or type of raincape, for her brother Basil. It was named ‘Kahurangi’, after the different hues of blue that Joy dyed the harakeke. Joy has on display a piupiu woven for her daughter Ellen in 2009. It is a beautiful example.
Joy is weaving her first korowai. The foundation is muka, with dyed black hukahuka and pūkeko feathers incorporated on the sides. This cloak will be for Joy’s whānau (family). What a precious taonga to have .
Weaving with Veranoa today was Susan Luke. Like Joy, she’s working on her first korowai, which has a muka foundation incorporating feathers and hukahuka. It is absolutely stunning. Do come in to meet them, admire their work and view the exhibition. Thank you to all the previous resident weavers too. You all have given so much more to the exhibition experience, just by your presence.