Weaving with flax is one of life's healthy addictions, says Julia Stead.

It is a compulsion she has been developing during the past two years while studying with tutor Trina Taurua at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Whanganui.

Raranga, traditional Maori weaving tuition, is provided by the wananga as part of the Kawai Raupapa-Certificate in Maori Visual Arts.

The 36-week, level-4, no-fees course provides learning in raranga patterns and designs, basic techniques, growing and caring for flax and tools, drawing and design, tikanga Maori relating to raranga and as well as whakapapa, whanau, hapu and iwi traditions.


Ms Stead, along with mother and daughter tauira (students) Jenny and Jess Watson, have completed the level 5 diploma this year after completing Level 4 in 2016.

"We hold noho (live-in) workshops at Pakaraka Marae in Maxwell 10 times a year," said Ms Taurua.

"It means that tauira can stay focused on the raranga and they are not stopping to drive kids around or go to the supermarket."

Jenny Watson said she has loved the noho experiences as a way to advance her work.

"It's total immersion," she says. "There are no distractions because all the shopping, cooking and child minding is taken care of so you just focus on your mahi."

Although raranga is a traditional art, the work produced by the wananga students has colourful, contemporary elements and every student's finished item looks unique.

"Everyone learns the same techniques but no two people will produce the same finished product," says Ms Taurua.

She has taught students from all over the world and some students have incorporated their European colours and traditions in to their work.


"I love it," says Ms Taurua. "It is part of the joy of teaching this craft - you never know what people will come up with."

Enrolments are open for the next Kawai Raupapa course at twoa.ac.nz or call 0800 355 553.