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From June 28th to July 7th, the Raglan Old School Arts Centre will host a special art exhibition as part of the Matariki ki Whaingaroa 2024 celebrations. This festival, aptly named Matariki ki Tua o ngā Whetū (Matariki of Endless Possibilities), honours the power of indigenous knowledge and brings together a collective of local Māori artists.

Recognising that the work of an artist can often be a lonely place, the collective have been brought together by Simon Te Wheoro and Aaron Kereopa. Seen as  a  way of connecting local artists and strengthening their support networks, the exhibition is an opportunity for the more established artists to mentor and uplift emerging artists or those  sitting  in the shadows. 

Among the featured artists are three wàhine Māori who have dedicated over 30 years to the art of weaving within our community: Ebony Waitere, Gwyn (Rangi) Brodie, and Rangi Kereopa. These women are members of Ngā Hua o Te Rito (Fruits from Fibre/Heart of the Flax), a Charitable Trust and weaving collective established in 2003 that represents marae from Taharoa to Te Pùaha o Waikato and Ngāti Whātua, Ōrākei.

Ngā Hua o Te Rito is committed to:

  • Safeguarding and revitalising the art of weaving harakeke (flax) through both traditional and contemporary methods.
  • Teaching and upholding the traditional tikanga (protocols) of weaving.
  • Sharing knowledge of various weaving techniques, including kete whiri, kete whakairo,  kete pikau, and whariki.
  • Enhancing the skills of tutors within the collective.
  • Conserving resources and caring for the environment.
  • Providing professional development through wānanga (learning gatherings).

The collective has been instrumental in running wānanga, creating opportunities for weavers to share and learn from each other, thereby preserving and revitalising lost skills. They also support marae, poukai, and whānau by donating woven taonga (treasures) for fundraising efforts. For instance, Aramiro Marae was able to purchase a freezer with funds raised from selling donated kete and pōtae.

Since 2008, Ngā Hua o Te Rito has focused on teaching and sustaining the skills of whāriki (mat) weaving. Fostering a deeper connection and understanding of whakapapa (genealogy) among the weavers, the collective have adorned marae across the wider  Waikato region with over 70 of these mats, each uniquely patterned to reflect the history of its respective marae.  

Another significant initiative with the support of the DHB, is the creation of over 100 wahakura (woven flax bassinets) to promote traditional Māori practices for safe infant sleeping which supports whànau in nurturing their babies.

Rangi Kereopa highlights the profound impact of a wānanga held at Kāwhia, where participants were able to immerse themselves in their weaving as they sat beside the harbour, synchronising their work with the ebb and flow of the tides. This shared experience deepened their bonds and enriched their weaving knowledge.

Ebony Waitere recalls her journey into the collective, inspired by observing Grace Mataira’s teachings at the local  Kōhanga Reo. Reflecting on her great-grandmother, Ngawai (née Haimona) Amuketi, a skilled weaver, Ebony feels a deep connection to her roots through the art of weaving.  The smell of the harakeke in the room while the women weave together inspires and reminds Ebony of her. A kete gifted to her by her aunt, originally woven by her great-grandmother, in recognition of her passion and skill as a weaver, will be featured in the Matariki exhibition.

Ebony, Gwyn, and Rangi have found being part of the collective an extremely rewarding experience,  providing them with opportunities to learn, grow, and preserve the art of weaving for future generations. Embracing the philosophy of “Ringa mā koha koha” (hands for gifts), the collective has given away more woven taonga than they have sold. Through their generosity, these wahine Māori have developed their skills, forged strong friendships, learnt history and whakapapa, and supported each other, creating a deep sense of connection and community.

Come and witness the exquisite works of these talented weavers and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Matariki at the Raglan Old School Arts Centre.  The exhibition will be made extra special for Rangi Kereopa who will be exhibiting alongside two of her sons Aaron and Tare.  It seems creativity runs in the family.

Check out the full Matariki festival and exhibition programme  (which includes inspiring kòrero and films) on the Activities page. 

Also available to order on Friday 28th June is a hangi ($15 each) – orders can be made through the Ihub, Community House and Raglan Old School Arts Centre.

Raglan Māori Weavers Showcase Their Art 2024