VALUABLE EXPERIENCE: Weavers Ross Wesche and Tuwhiti Happy with a completed maro. Photos John Morin D9470-13

OPOTIKI weavers have been hard at work preparing maro for the kapa haka troupe competing at next month’s Mataatua Kapa Haka Regionals.

Twenty maro, a short woven piece worn similarly to a loincloth, are in the final stages of preparation for the male performers.

They are being prepared by Tangimoe Clay and two male weavers, Ross Wesche and Tuwhiti Happy.

Ms Clay was asked in October to weave the maro for the February performance date. She said this was not enough time for one weaver to do the work, prompting her to call on the two men for assistance.

Mr Happy and Mr Wesche, who hail from Opotiki but now live in Auckland and Rotorua respectively, have been travelling to Opotiki regularly to help over the past three months.

Ms Clay said it was good to have them on board, as weaving often fell to women with male weavers not always being recognised.

BUSY HANDS: Tuwhiti Happy puts some finishing touches to maro he and Ross Wesche have been busy weaving alongside Opotiki weaver Tangimoe Clay. D9470-04

Mr Happy said he had been a weaver since his teenage years and learned some of his skills from Ms Clay.

“I started with kete (woven baskets or bags) when I was a teen,” he said.

This style of weaving, known as raranga, was later complemented by the weaving style whatu, which Mr Happy learned from Ms Clay.

Mr Happy said the experience had been a valuable one, picking up new skills and honing an eye for detail, looking at his work as an artist rather than just as a weaver.

“It’s given me the skill to cast a critical eye over my work,” he said.

Mr Wesche, a weaver of more than 20 years, has been lending his expertise as the only one of the trio with experience making maro.

He said when Ms Clay called asking if he would help out with the project, he was happy to oblige and had been travelling to Opotiki to help whenever he could. “That’s what weavers do,” he said.

Mr Wesche said he had enjoyed working on the maro and was looking forward to seeing them worn on stage.

“It’s quite humbling, when someone thinks your work is good enough to wear.”

The biennial Mataatua Kapa Haka competition will be held on February 6 and 7 at Ohui Domain in Opotiki.

james.sandbrook@opotikinews.co.nz