Whariki wananga

Taonga are a link to the past that carry stories about our history and whakapapa. But as Shaan Te Kani recently discovered, they can also provide a way forward in the revitalisation of marae, hapu and whānau.

Taonga are a link to the past that carry stories about our history and whakapapa. But as Shaan Te Kani recently discovered, they can also provide a way forward in the revitalisation of marae, hapu and whānau.

RECONNECTING WITH TAONGA: Te Papa textiles conservator Rangi Hetet (left), is shown some of the damaged whāriki of Rangatira Marae by whanau member Dave Pikia. Hetet tutored a taonga conservation workshop to help the whānau preserve their whāriki. Picture by Shaan Te Kani.

RANGATIRA REVIVAL: After 50 years in remission Rangatira Marae was reopened last October and Dave Pikia is one of the whānau members working on its revival, hosting wānanga such as its recent series of whāriki workshops.
Picture by Shaan Te Kani.
WHĀRIKI CONSERVATION: The task of cleaning whāriki (traditional Maori mats) was a meticulous mission, but every inch worth it. The mats of Rangatira Marae are unique taonga made with a high level of craftmanship, says textiles conservator Rangi Hetet. Picture by Shaan Te Kani.

IT'S been a busy time for the whanau of Rangatira Marae in Te Karaka.

After 50 years in remission the marae reopened last October, and since then the whanau has been breathing life back into their pa.

“It’s been a long time coming,” says Rangatira Marae whanau member Dave Pikia.

“I’ve always said where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s fire, there’s warmth. Where there’s warmth, there’s people.”

Rangatira Marae is one of many pa of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, under the hapu of Ngati Wahia, and Mr Pikia has a dream for that warmth to return.

Since the reopening karakia last year, the whanau has been on a revival journey holding small events and wananga at their marae.

Among the events has been a series of whariki wananga — conservation workshops for the marae whariki (traditional woven mats).

Because the marae is located just 300 metres from the bank of the Waipaoa River, it was adversely affected by Cyclone Bola in 1988 and the whariki were among the damaged taonga.

“The impact was severe but we are fortunate that both the wharenui and the kauta (cook house) are still standing,” says Mr Pikia.

“The water went right through the wharenui and went up a metre high.

“During the flood clean-up we washed the mats, hung them out to dry and put them back in the whare. And for nearly 20 years that’s all that’s really happened with them.”

Revival of Rangatira Marae

Now they have become an important strand in the revival of Rangatira Marae.

When whanau member Whitiaua Ropitini saw the whariki he was amazed, but says they begged the question of what to do next.

“These whariki are beautiful taonga but we weren’t too sure of how to care for them,” says Mr Ropitini.

“We just knew that we needed someone with expertise to show us how.”

The whanau decided to call a wananga, opening it up to all whanau of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki and Tairawhiti.

Weavers and whanau from throughout the district heeded the call.

“It was an opportunity for everyone to help with the marae project but also to learn from one another and to take that knowledge back to their own marae,” says Mr Ropitini.

Through his networks he was also able to get help from the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa.

Te Papa hold taonga conservation workshops through its community arm National Services Te Paerangi, which sees the museum work collaboratively with iwi in their community setting.

The first wananga was tutored by Te Papa textiles conservator Rangi Te Kanawa, who also has the whakapapa to back up her expertise in the field of raranga (weaving).

Long line of master weavers

Te Kanawa, of Ngati Maniapoto, comes from a line of renowned master weavers, including her mother Diggeress Te Kanawa and grandmother Dame Rangi Hetet.

“My work is conservation, which is about preserving the taonga not restoring it. I advise communities on how to care for their taonga for future generations,” says Te Kanawa.

“I also advise them on how to store their taonga once the cleaning process is finished. Then they decide on how they will use their taonga. Whether they want them to be on display or to be used for special occasions.”

A fair amount of cosmetic treatment was carried out at the wananga, which originally began at the marae.

But because there is no power at the pa, the wananga was shifted to Te Karaka Area School so the whanau could power up the vacuum cleaners required for the surface cleaning of the mats.

Te Kanawa also carried out an assessment, where she took photographs of the 20 mats, noted the materials used (flax or kiekie) and the condition and dimensions of each whariki. In doing so, she created an inventory for the whanau.

She was most impressed by the large and unique collection of whariki, which look like they date back to the 1930s.

“The ones made of kiekie seem to have survived well, and the ones made of harakeke (flax) not so well,” she says.

“Also, the patterns on the kiekie are very intricate. There is a mixture of tribal styles in the designs, but some of the patterns I have never seen before, which makes this collection extremely interesting.

“The craftmanship of these whariki speak volumes about the weavers. They were very skilled. Every single kiekie mat is unique, while in the harakeke mats there are repeats of patterns.

“These are all examples of why kiekie is such a prized material. It looks like the kiekie mats may have been used for special occasions, such as tangihanga (funerals), whereas the harakeke mats may have been for more common use.

“But that’s a question that needs to be researched by the whanau.

“The physical work involved in conservation is huge but the research component can be just as a great.

“I can’t say enough about connecting with taonga. It empowers communities. It brings everyone, of all ages, to come and have their input.”

Mr Pikia agrees, saying the wananga brought the whanau of Rangatira Marae together.

“We’ve had our nannies and even our young people involved. And when people sit down and work together, they kōrero. It has brought out a lot of stories and whakapapa. All of this will help us in our journey forward in the revitalisation of our marae.”

IT'S been a busy time for the whanau of Rangatira Marae in Te Karaka.

After 50 years in remission the marae reopened last October, and since then the whanau has been breathing life back into their pa.

“It’s been a long time coming,” says Rangatira Marae whanau member Dave Pikia.

“I’ve always said where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there’s fire, there’s warmth. Where there’s warmth, there’s people.”

Rangatira Marae is one of many pa of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, under the hapu of Ngati Wahia, and Mr Pikia has a dream for that warmth to return.

Since the reopening karakia last year, the whanau has been on a revival journey holding small events and wananga at their marae.

Among the events has been a series of whariki wananga — conservation workshops for the marae whariki (traditional woven mats).

Because the marae is located just 300 metres from the bank of the Waipaoa River, it was adversely affected by Cyclone Bola in 1988 and the whariki were among the damaged taonga.

“The impact was severe but we are fortunate that both the wharenui and the kauta (cook house) are still standing,” says Mr Pikia.

“The water went right through the wharenui and went up a metre high.

“During the flood clean-up we washed the mats, hung them out to dry and put them back in the whare. And for nearly 20 years that’s all that’s really happened with them.”

Revival of Rangatira Marae

Now they have become an important strand in the revival of Rangatira Marae.

When whanau member Whitiaua Ropitini saw the whariki he was amazed, but says they begged the question of what to do next.

“These whariki are beautiful taonga but we weren’t too sure of how to care for them,” says Mr Ropitini.

“We just knew that we needed someone with expertise to show us how.”

The whanau decided to call a wananga, opening it up to all whanau of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki and Tairawhiti.

Weavers and whanau from throughout the district heeded the call.

“It was an opportunity for everyone to help with the marae project but also to learn from one another and to take that knowledge back to their own marae,” says Mr Ropitini.

Through his networks he was also able to get help from the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa.

Te Papa hold taonga conservation workshops through its community arm National Services Te Paerangi, which sees the museum work collaboratively with iwi in their community setting.

The first wananga was tutored by Te Papa textiles conservator Rangi Te Kanawa, who also has the whakapapa to back up her expertise in the field of raranga (weaving).

Long line of master weavers

Te Kanawa, of Ngati Maniapoto, comes from a line of renowned master weavers, including her mother Diggeress Te Kanawa and grandmother Dame Rangi Hetet.

“My work is conservation, which is about preserving the taonga not restoring it. I advise communities on how to care for their taonga for future generations,” says Te Kanawa.

“I also advise them on how to store their taonga once the cleaning process is finished. Then they decide on how they will use their taonga. Whether they want them to be on display or to be used for special occasions.”

A fair amount of cosmetic treatment was carried out at the wananga, which originally began at the marae.

But because there is no power at the pa, the wananga was shifted to Te Karaka Area School so the whanau could power up the vacuum cleaners required for the surface cleaning of the mats.

Te Kanawa also carried out an assessment, where she took photographs of the 20 mats, noted the materials used (flax or kiekie) and the condition and dimensions of each whariki. In doing so, she created an inventory for the whanau.

She was most impressed by the large and unique collection of whariki, which look like they date back to the 1930s.

“The ones made of kiekie seem to have survived well, and the ones made of harakeke (flax) not so well,” she says.

“Also, the patterns on the kiekie are very intricate. There is a mixture of tribal styles in the designs, but some of the patterns I have never seen before, which makes this collection extremely interesting.

“The craftmanship of these whariki speak volumes about the weavers. They were very skilled. Every single kiekie mat is unique, while in the harakeke mats there are repeats of patterns.

“These are all examples of why kiekie is such a prized material. It looks like the kiekie mats may have been used for special occasions, such as tangihanga (funerals), whereas the harakeke mats may have been for more common use.

“But that’s a question that needs to be researched by the whanau.

“The physical work involved in conservation is huge but the research component can be just as a great.

“I can’t say enough about connecting with taonga. It empowers communities. It brings everyone, of all ages, to come and have their input.”

Mr Pikia agrees, saying the wananga brought the whanau of Rangatira Marae together.

“We’ve had our nannies and even our young people involved. And when people sit down and work together, they kōrero. It has brought out a lot of stories and whakapapa. All of this will help us in our journey forward in the revitalisation of our marae.”

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the new identity and wellbeing focus of Trust Tairawhiti (formerly Eastland Community Trust)?