HAVING visited exhibitions of work by raranga weaving students from Te Wananga o Aotearoa in previous years, Lee Peterson decided the course was something she really wanted to do.

Last week’s exhibition at the wananga in Te Tahi Street showcased work of students studying toward a Diploma in Maori and Indigenous Art – Toi Paematua, at Nga Mahi a Te Whare Pora (the house of weaving).

“I’ve always been interested,” says Lee, one of this year’s graduands. “My father started me on my journey when I was about 13, teaching me to do headbands and rourou (food baskets). Over the years I learnt how to do kete and things. I’d been to see the exhibitions throughout the years put on by Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and I always said that when I retired I was going to do that course. So I have and it’s been great.”

Course tutor, raranga kaiako Geraldine Karekare says the diploma course has two levels.

“Kawai Raupapa is level 4, teaching just the basic skills in order for them to grasp a lot of creative practices and processes.

“It’s also learning tikanga, which is most important because it helps with the sustainability of the plant. That’s incorporated to give them the basic skills to create all the works that were on display at the exhibition.

They then move up to advanced skills in level 5, Toi Paematua. A lot of that is being able to process muka (flax fibre). That enables them to make pepe muka or korowai and gives them the confidence to go on to study at a higher level.”

Lee started in 2017 with the first year, level 4 weaving course. She wasn’t able to attend last year as she was visiting her children overseas but continued with the level 5 course this year.

Two works she had in last week’s exhibition were a whariki (mat) with a to-rakaraka pattern and a collection of taniko pinned to a suit jacket.

“My taniko pieces were inspired by my middle son, Jan, who’s in the Navy, getting a Distinguished Service Medal from the Governor General.

“The ribbons that go with the medals all have a meaning, too. That was my inspiration, so I decided to make one for each of my grandchildren. The muka, the white thread, has been extracted from flax, the harakeke, so that is to tie them to Papatuanuku, and our whenua, Whakatane.

“The motif that I’ve done is a Samoan tapa flower, which relates to my husband, Joe’s, Samoan heritage. And the embroidery thread, which I’ve used comes from the English tradition. They each have their own colour. So, I will be giving [the grandchildren] those with their story about them for their birthdays next year.

“I put them on the coat as a lapel adornment. And someone who came along to the exhibition said it made them think of their koro who had war medals, so it was a good way of displaying them.”

The course has been run as a full-time course over previous years. However, Geraldine says next year the wananga will be offering it as a noho-based course, of one weekend a month and one night class a week to make it more accessible to people who are working.

People who missed the exhibition will be able to view a selection of the exhibits at Te Koputu – Whakatane library and exhibition centre from December 7.

diane.mccarthy@thebeacon.co.nz