Veranoa Hetet and her group of weavers Te Rōpu Miro have been the weavers in residence for the Kahu Ora Living Cloaks exhibition for the last few weeks. Time goes so fast and it’s hard to believe this will be their last weekend at Te Papa, as they finish on Sunday 2 September.
Veranoa and her family have had a long association with Te Papa. I first met Veranoa’s Mum, Erenora Puketapu-Hetet in about 1987 when I was fresh to the museum world, and working in the insect department at the old Buckle Street building of the National Museum. I remember Erenora’s warmth and her willingness to share her knowledge of weaving with me, and with anyone who showed an interest. She showed me how to extract muka using a mussel shell – something that continues to amaze me – and we watched as she showed us how to weave tukutuku panels. It felt very special when years later in 2012, I was able to help make available in the Kahu Ora exhibition and on the cloaks website a video of one of the last interviews that Erenora gave, in March 2006, only months before sadly she passed away.
Kahu Ora has been one of the best and most rewarding exhibitions that I’ve had the privilege to work on for Te Papa. Weaving is about connections and the threads that join people together. Over the last few weeks I’ve had the chance to reconnect with Veranoa. It has been amazing to watch her at work in the Weavers’ Studio, skilfully working on the tāniko border for a kākahu for her eldest son.
We reminisced about Erenora, and talked about the kākahu that Erenora was working on, but didn’t complete, before she passed away. Awhina, Norm and I filmed Veranoa the other day, capturing this wonderful kōrero. Once this is edited it will be added to the Māori Cloaks website.
Last week Veranoa and her group were joined by Kahu Te Kanawa, another expert weaver who was here to give a talk at Te Papa.
Veranoa’s great-grandmother, Rangimarie Hetet, is Kahu’s grandmother – their connections are strong and deep. It was magical to see Kahu and Veranoa sitting down together to work on the tāniko border of Veranoa’s kākahu. They laughed, they talked and they told me “this is how weavers learn”.
Another magical moment in Kahu Ora, another connection, another example of knowledge being shared and passed on.
Nau te rourou
Naku te rourou
Ka ora te tangata
With your basket of knowledge
And my basket of knowledge
The people will be assisted