Kahu Ora – Toi Whakarākai, Te Wānanga o Raukawa weavers

It is an honour for Te Papa to welcome this month’s resident weavers for the Kahu Ora exhibition – tutors and students from the Design and Art course of Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Otaki.

 Under the name of Toi Whakarākai, senior weavers Sonia Snowden, Pip Devonshire and Elaine Bevan later to be joined by others, will occupy the weavers’ studio until the 30th September.  Famous for their beautiful work in kete whakairo, piupiu, poi and kākahu, each of these accomplished weavers bring their own special magic to Kahu Ora.

Elaine and her potae. Image copyright Te Papa.

Elaine is weaving a shaped muka and feather pōtae or cap. She deftly twines in tiny delicate tūī feathers individually with each weft row, starting at the crown and working round, adding warp threads as she goes. It is very exacting work. Elaine’s pōtae is based on two fragile and unique examples that she has studied in the Te Papa collection. We don’t know much about them, but think that they may be aged over a hundred years old. Can’t wait to see how Elaine’s pōtae progresses.

Whaea Sonia talks to an interested visitor. Image copyright Te Papa.

 Whaea Sonia is processing muka, the fine, silky threads extracted from green harakeke leaves for weaving.  Her finely coiled twists of muka in groups are beautiful. Visitors are enthralled watching her demonstrate the haro (extraction) process of the muka with a mussel shell.

Whaea Sonia’s coiled muka. Image copyright Te Papa.

 Pip Devonshire is weaving a muka and kiwi feather tauira (sample), using a pair of driftwood turuturu (weaving pegs) attached to a wooden base, to suspend her work. The method is an adaption of the use of turuturu for weaving kākahu in the past, the only difference is that the turuturu were held upright in the ground.

Pip weaving and talking with a visitor. Image copyright Te Papa.

 Te Papa host Hohepa Potini is doing a great job with his own weaving. Hepa has been busy extracting, rolling and coiling muka fibre into bundles in preparation for a kākahu for his own children and grandchildren one day. So far he has produced over 1400 threads, phenomenal. Hepa’s feathered friend prefers to keep one eye on Hepa rather than sit with his manu-mates on the touch trolley. He’s got his hands (beak) full too.  So goes the whakatauki, or proverb, of Tamaterangi from Ngāti Kahungunu-“He ao te rangi ka uhia, he huruhuru te manu ka tau. ” As clouds bedeck the heavens, so feathers adorn the bird.  Meaning, being appropriately dressed is everything.   

Hepa coiling muka. His mate manu helps out. Image copyright Te Papa.

Come see and talk to the Toi Whakarākai weavers, with Hepa, Lucy and the host team in Kahu Ora, from Wednesday to Sunday, 12-4pm.

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