Past joins present in weaving exhibition

POUTAMA: A tuwhara (floor mat) woven by Te Wananga o Aotearoa raranga (weaving) student, Abby Collier (left), under tutor Erin Rauna is one of several works by students inspired by older pieces from the Tairawhiti Museum collection. The works, old and new, make up the exhibition, Kete Puawai-Basket of Evolution. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

The layout of the Kete Puawai-Basket of Evolution exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum is based on the traditional raranga (weaving) pattern poutama, the staircase. On one side of the zig-zag partition are softly-lit, woven taonga from the past. On the other side are contemporary works by Te Wananga o Aotearoa’s raranga students inspired by the older pieces.

This is not an exhibition of kete alone. The show’s title, Kete Puawai-Basket of Evolution, refers to the evolution of weaving skills and techniques from the past and to its continuation through to the present.

“The exhibition concept began in September when the museum invited my class to come in and look at its collection of taonga,” says tutor Erin Rauna.

Students took inspiration from the designs and many of the techniques that were almost lost to time but can be seen in the taonga.

Included in the exhibition is a glass cabinet that tells the story of how harakeke (flax) is processed to become weaving material. The flax leaf is scraped with a shell to reveal the muka, or fibre. Comb-like sizing tools keep the width of each muka strand consistent. Hung from the cabinet are samples of the fibre at each preparatory stage, including finely twined lengths.

“You can weave directly with the whenu (flax strips) or with the muka,” says Rauna.

Student Abby Collier’s work, Whakapapa i nga ra o mua is a whariki, a floor mat (a wall hanging, in this case) whose poutama pattern — and stitched seam that joins the two halves of the work — are drawn from one of the older pieces in the museum’s collection.

The poutama pattern signifies learning, growth and movement.

The left side of the whariki represents those who came before Collier “and all the knowledge and traits that were in me before I was born.”

“The right side represents my journey from when I was born up until now.”

Of technical significance is the hiki, the seam that joins the pieces of woven fabric to create the whariki. Nearby, a large whariki is hung vertically so both sides can be viewed. Fibre used for the hiki is particularly fine as is the stitching, says Rauna.

Rauna has previously taken the opportunity to learn raranga techniques from skilled practitioners in Wellington so she and her students can not only help keep the knowledge alive but ensure it is part of the evolution of weaving.

The layout of the Kete Puawai-Basket of Evolution exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum is based on the traditional raranga (weaving) pattern poutama, the staircase. On one side of the zig-zag partition are softly-lit, woven taonga from the past. On the other side are contemporary works by Te Wananga o Aotearoa’s raranga students inspired by the older pieces.

This is not an exhibition of kete alone. The show’s title, Kete Puawai-Basket of Evolution, refers to the evolution of weaving skills and techniques from the past and to its continuation through to the present.

“The exhibition concept began in September when the museum invited my class to come in and look at its collection of taonga,” says tutor Erin Rauna.

Students took inspiration from the designs and many of the techniques that were almost lost to time but can be seen in the taonga.

Included in the exhibition is a glass cabinet that tells the story of how harakeke (flax) is processed to become weaving material. The flax leaf is scraped with a shell to reveal the muka, or fibre. Comb-like sizing tools keep the width of each muka strand consistent. Hung from the cabinet are samples of the fibre at each preparatory stage, including finely twined lengths.

“You can weave directly with the whenu (flax strips) or with the muka,” says Rauna.

Student Abby Collier’s work, Whakapapa i nga ra o mua is a whariki, a floor mat (a wall hanging, in this case) whose poutama pattern — and stitched seam that joins the two halves of the work — are drawn from one of the older pieces in the museum’s collection.

The poutama pattern signifies learning, growth and movement.

The left side of the whariki represents those who came before Collier “and all the knowledge and traits that were in me before I was born.”

“The right side represents my journey from when I was born up until now.”

Of technical significance is the hiki, the seam that joins the pieces of woven fabric to create the whariki. Nearby, a large whariki is hung vertically so both sides can be viewed. Fibre used for the hiki is particularly fine as is the stitching, says Rauna.

Rauna has previously taken the opportunity to learn raranga techniques from skilled practitioners in Wellington so she and her students can not only help keep the knowledge alive but ensure it is part of the evolution of weaving.

Kete Puawai-Basket of Evolution, Tairawhiti Museum, until February 25.

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