Weavers create panels for NZ Wall

By Abigail Hartevelt of the Rotorua Daily Post -
Pictured are weavers (from left) Gaylene Henry, Matekino Lawless, Cathy Schuster, Christina Wirihana. Photo / APN
Pictured are weavers (from left) Gaylene Henry, Matekino Lawless, Cathy Schuster, Christina Wirihana. Photo / APN

Rotoiti's Christina Wirihana is among a dozen weavers from Rotorua and the Eastern Bay of Plenty who have added their talents to a project for the New Zealand Wall at the refurbished United Nations' headquarters in New York.

The project, led by Mrs Wirihana, involved 50 turapa (completed panels of Tukutuku weaving) created by 28 weavers nationwide. They were on show at Rotoiti's Taurua Marae on Saturday giving people their only chance to see them in New Zealand before they are taken to their new home in New York.

Mrs Wirihana said she started work on the project at the end of 2010 and to see it completed was amazing. Part of the project involved harvesting kiekie and pingao - materials used for the weaving - in the Waitakere Ranges.

"It's really an amazing outcome of [many] hours and days of research of patterns, creating new patterns. To see it realised in a panel is quite amazing."

Mrs Wirihana plans to go to New York between May-August next year to help with the installation of the turapa.

Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite said the turapa would provide an opportunity for Maori arts and culture to be promoted globally.

"Those who see these panels in New York will experience art that embodies the innovation, vitality and history of Maori culture. I congratulate all the weavers from Te Ropu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa who have contributed to this work. They bring forward the best of our past to inspire our contemporary lives."

During a visit to the United Nations in 2010, Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples learned of the major refurbishments at the United Nations General Assembly Building (UN). He and other ministers recognised an opportunity to demonstrate New Zealand's long-term commitment to the UN, while showcasing the cultural identity of Maori as tangata whenua, the indigenous people of Aotearoa.

A plan was developed to liven up the New Zealand wall with tukutuku - the traditional latticework used to decorate meeting houses. Through Te Puni Kokiri, the Jack Lawless Whanau Trust was selected to deliver the project, under the leadership of Mrs Wirihana as manager and renowned weaver.

The panels depict a range of historical events and natural wonders including the Southern Cross, Matariki, Halley's Comet, and Anzac Day.

Other local weavers involved included Edna Pahewa and John Turi from Rotorua, Harata Black, Jim and Cathy Schuster, Matekino Lawless and Gaylene Henry from Rotoiti, Geraldine Karekare, Jacqueline Tarei McRae and Mere Walker and roopu (group) from Kawerau and Glenda Hape from Whakatane.

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