Artist gets weaving with new city start

By Sam Boyer

Packing up your life to start afresh in another city is never easy, but for one Christchurch artist it was a necessity.

Puti Hauraki has had to rebuild her life and her art collection in Tauranga after her gallery was hit by the Christchurch earthquakes.

Hauraki lost about $60,000 worth of work when her gallery was destroyed, although she was able to retrieve some art.

"I couldn't get it [all] out. It was all water damaged, the ceiling fell in. It just collapsed.

"We were allowed two entries in to get what we could. I couldn't get my lighting out, I couldn't get my flooring out that I imported from Finland, I couldn't get my mirrors out or my photos," she said.

Her gallery was in the Christchurch Arts Centre, a heritage building that partially collapsed in the quakes.

"It's in the Red Zone. The building will be rebuilt, but they are saying it's 15 years in the rebuild.

"It won't rebuild in my lifetime. Even though I'm from there and it's my tribal home, it won't rebuild in my lifetime."

Hauraki said she would not return to the damaged South Island city.

Instead she has been busy outfitting her new space at the Cargo Shed on the waterfront in central Tauranga ahead of the gallery's relaunch later in the month.

She said it was a relief to be out of Christchurch, away from the tremors and able to start afresh in her new home town.

"We just woke up one morning and said, 'We've got to get out.'

"It's very scary. You don't know, 'Is this it, is this the one that's going to drop Christchurch?' It leaves you fragile, it leaves you incredibly fragile.

"It was really difficult to leave [but Tauranga] is amazing, the people are amazing. It's incredibly pristine. The roads are wonderful to drive on, there's not cracks. It's amazing to be surrounded by so much water, and everyone's so welcoming.

"It hasn't been easy but it's been enjoyable here in the Cargo Shed. We've made an awful lot of new friends."

Husband Pita Hauraki agreed the change had come at the right time for the couple.

"When we arrived here, it was like walking into paradise. It's so nice being able to sleep in peace," he said.

"It's been quite a big challenge for Puti. To start all over again, it's a big move."

Hauraki is a weaver. She creates traditional Maori clothing and accessories and sculpts with flax. Her gallery space also features her one-of-a-kind dresses and limited edition prints on flax paper, as well as other items such as clay work and carvings from artisan family members.

She has exhibited her artwork in various national collections and has won awards, at the Wearable Arts.

She knows of several prominent people with her work in their private collections, including the current US President.

"Barack Obama has a piece of my art. Somebody came into my gallery and they were looking for a gift for him," she said.

The piece was then packaged up and posted off to the White House in Washington DC.

Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, of Creative Tauranga, said the city had been fortunate to get Hauraki and her modern artwork.

"We're delighted to have her. I love her work, just love it.

"We're lacking that in Tauranga, that contemporary Maori artwork. I'd like to see more of that. The cruise ship passengers and passengers from overseas, they just love that Maori art," she said.

Puti Hauraki's gallery space at the Cargo Shed is open on weekends and cruise ship days.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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