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I am a weaver

I am a weaver

Yesterday morning I was asked to speak about how weaving and the arts has impacted me at Aratoi Museum of Art and History. So I wrote a little speech, having a 3 minute limit (I mean, I could go on for HOURS about how much I love to weave LOL so it was pretty hard to narrow it down), and thought 'sure I can do this'. Then the morning came and I thought 'This is gonna make me cry!' and yup! I did. But apparently I brought a tear to a lot of people's eyes, so I wasn't alone.

For me weaving is more than just fun. It is joy. It is acceptance. It is validation. It is a vehicle to all of those things. It is connection. It is memory. It is...well. It's who I am.
Said speech below.
Ngā mihi

Ko Motatau te maunga
Ko Taikirau te awa
Ko Ngatokimata Whaorua rāua ko HMSS Monowai ngā waka
Ko Te Tarawa te hapū
Ko Te Rapunga rāua ko Kawiti ngā marae
Ko Ngapuhi rāua ko Ngati Hine ngā iwi
Ko Bob rāua ko Hokimate ngā matua
No Whakaoriori au
Ko Manaia toku ingoa

My name is Manaia and I am a weaver.
As you can tell from my mihi, I do not whakapapa back to the iwi of the Wairarapa. My father Bob was pakeha and of Scot and English descent, and my mother Hokimate or Chris, was Māori, originally from the far North, where the Ngapuhi and Ngati Hine tribes call home. Both have since passed away, my dad 10 years ago and my mother 4.

A few months after my mum passed away, I saw an ad on FB for an online tāniko course run through The Hetet School of Māori Art. I had always been encouraged by my parents to be as crafty and arty as i could, and the word ‘tāniko’ struck a chord in me like a memory half submerged.

So I signed up, grateful that I didn’t have to sit in a class with others, grateful that I didn’t have an audience, and that I could make mistakes in the privacy of my own home and company, grateful to be anonymous.

I had only completed the first tāniko sampler, before there was another offer from the School for a beginners raranga course – Module 1. So I signed up to that as well. My Kaiako was Whaea Veranoa, and through her videos I learned how to harvest, prepare, and weave my first kono. That kono took me absolutely forever to weave, but once I did, all I wanted to do was weave another one. So I did, and another and another, till after a week I had 6 sitting there in front of me, sore arms and shoulders, and a feeling of ‘rightness’ in my world.

Module 1 led to module 2, weave a kete whiri. The first kete I ever wove looked like a gumboot, but once that was completed, I felt on top of the world. Talking to one of mums sisters, I told her what I had done and she said ‘Our mum used to weave, you must’ve gotten it from her side’. I was gobsmacked. How could I have gone my entire life without knowing this?

Module 3 was the kicker – weave a kete whakairo. So now I could weave kete, but to weave a patterned kete that you could dye pretty colours and had patterns that told a story, this seemed like the ultimate. My first kete whakairo completed, and I felt like a story teller, I felt like an artist, and another piece of myself clicked into place.

Module 4 was the tāniko, and I had already done that, so what about the next one Module 5 – weave a kakahu? I didn’t think I would have the patience, but I wasn’t afraid of giving it a go.

Fast forward a few years. I have since completed a Hieke, A piupiu, A maro, and this year during lockdown I finally finished my first Korowai, named ‘Manawanui’. All of these were requirements for completing the Kakahu Module for HsoMA.

I am lucky enough to be the first graduate of HSoMA online course.
Since lockdown/graduating, I was commissioned to weave an art piece, and have since completed another kakahu, which is on display here at Aratoi, named ‘Matāmua’. I am currently weaving orders for gifts for xmas and getting market ready, and starting to prep for my next kakahu.

The impact that weaving has had on my life has actually been quite profound. You never really appreciate what you have until it isn’t there anymore, and for me, that was my connection to my Māori side, which was my mum. Not having a strong Iwi connection here in the Wairarapa also influenced me. I didn’t feel confident enough in myself to ask a local to teach me how to weave. I felt like I couldn’t really connect with my whanaunga here to help me, but I still needed to find more out about who I was.

When I look back on my journey, online learning was really my only choice.
What weaving has given me, is the confidence in myself as a Māori wahine, to be able to stand up in this world, and say ‘I am here, I am Māori, I am a weaver.’ I have since made connections here with local Iwi, and feel more confident in my community. I feel like a more complete version of myself since learning to weave.

My name is Manaia, and I am a weaver.

No reira, tēna koutou, tēna koutou, tēna tatou katoa.

See the post: My name is Manaia, and I am a weaver.