Mahara Gallery is celebrating Matariki, the Māori New Year with an exhibition which features 54 mahi toi, artworks by 30 weavers and carvers who are past and present tauira (students) and tutors of Ōtaki's Te Wānanga o Raukawa.

Opening earlier this month Toi Whakarākai: Ngā Aho o te Whenua is the latest in a series of collaborations between the Gallery and Te Wananga over the past 20 years.

"We are thrilled to be able to present this comprehensive overview of work from Te Wananga weavers and carvers," Gallery director Janet Bayly said.
"Many of its tutors and associated artists have a national and international reputation."

Te Wānanga o Raukawa is a significant Māori educational organisation in Kāpiti.

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It was the first Māori university established in New Zealand when it began to support the revival of te reo, Māori language, in 1975.

The new moon following the rising of the star cluster Matariki (also known as the Pleiades) signals the Māori New Year.

According to the lunar calendar the stars set this year on May 15 and rise from July 13 – 16.

Customarily this was a time to remember the deceased of the past year and to plan for the next year.

Today, Matariki has been revived as a celebration of people, culture, language, spirituality, and history.

It is a time for whānau and friends to come together to reflect on the past 12 months and look towards the year ahead.

Janet Bayly said the exhibition provides an opportunity for people and whānau from all walks of life to gather and learn more about mātauranga Māori.

"The weavers and carvers in this group are known for continually extending the traditions and forms of their toi mahi.

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"The work is of very high quality."

Matariki features directly in several artworks, in particular the Tātai Whetū ki Te Rangi group of kete by Whaea Sonia Snowden.

These span more than 10 years of her practice, and have featured on New Zealand postage stamps.

Whaea Sonia's interest in Te Wharepora, the house of weaving, and kaupapa Māori, the collective vision of Māori communities, flourished when she took up residence in the centre of her universe – Ōtaki - during the mid-1970s as a young mother.

In 1978 Te Arawa kaumātua, Hiko Hohepa, who was teaching adult students te reo, fostered not only her interest in te reo but connected her with what was to become her passion - raranga, weaving.

One of her main projects was during the mid-1990s when Whaea Sonia was chosen to lead the tukutuku restoration project for Rangiātea Church in Ōtaki.

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Awarded the Ngā Tohu a Kingi Ihaka award in 2019, her work is in the collection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and shown in embassies around the world.

Weavers and carvers in the exhibition will be demonstrating their work and talking with visitors in the gallery over five Thursdays during the exhibition, between 10am and 3pm.

The dates are July 9 and 16, and August 13, 20 and 27.

Another special event will be Koro Don Te Maipi and ngā pakeke o Kapiti performing a new waiata which he wrote during lockdown, inspired by Jacinda Ardern's descriptions of fighting the fire of coronavirus, and some other waiata for Matariki.

This takes place on Tuesday, July 14 at 11am, entry is free.

Nau mai haere mai, all welcome.