A sampling of artists and organizers from The Eternal Thread exhibition:
"The success of the Toi Maori: The Eternal Thread exhibition is highlighted by the fact that everyone wants to claim ownership of it. When it touched down in San Francisco the many Americans we met could easily relate to a single thread that has its origins from the first sparkle of light that separates the earth from the sky and creates life from its light. That is the first thread cast and gave rise to the name of the exhibition.
All creative people relate to it but on this occasion it is used by Maori weavers as a symbol of weaving friendship, knowledge gathering, gifting, and many other treasures that are still to be realised. I know that the visit to Seattle and the interaction with the network of new friends we meet will add to its magic. We have to find time to share this with each other.
Darcy Nicholas has been a key member of the contemporary Maori art movement since the 1960s. He is a leading Maori painter and sculptor, who now produces international standard art exhibitions and cultural events at Pataka Museum in Porirua City.
His art is in public and private collections throughout New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, and Japan. His first one-man exhibition was in 1968 at the Antipodes Gallery in Wellington, New Zealand. Since then, he has exhibited widely throughout the world. He began a full-time career as a painter from 1973 until 1980. In 1984 he received a Fulbright Cultural Award to observe contemporary Native American, African American, British, European, and Asian cultures and art.
Since 1980, he has held several senior management positions including director of the Wellington Arts Centre, director of the Central (New Zealand) Regional Arts Council, assistant general manager of the Iwi Transition Agency, and director of cultural services for Porirua City. Darcy is currently general manager of cultural services for Porirua City, where he currently runs Pataka Museum. It is an innovative organization, incorporating a museum with contemporary arts, performing arts, an education center, and a public library. Pataka promotes contemporary Maori, Pacific Island, and New Zealand art and heritage.
"The word 'Maori' has immense value in the international arena. Combined with the dynamism and spirituality of the arts, it is an awesome force."
Garry Nicholas is general manager of Toi Maori Aotearoa – Maori Arts New Zealand, a trust established for the promotion of Maori arts and artists.
A descendant of the tribes of Taranaki and Tauranga, Garry has worked in the arts and culture sector since 1987 and prior to that worked within the education sector.
In 1987 he was appointed executive officer to the Council for Maori and South Pacific Arts (MASPAC). He held this position until 1996 when he was appointed as Maori arts advisor to Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand. In 1997 he was seconded to Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand as concept developer of the iwi (tribes) exhibition. His knowledge of visual arts and tribal history of his Taranaki people led to an exhibition that was a key component of the 1998 opening of the new museum in the capital city of Wellington, New Zealand.
In 1998, he was appointed as General Manager of the newly created Maori artists' organization, Toi Maori Aotearoa – Maori Arts New Zealand. He continues to work with the 10 national Maori arts committees to expand the audiences for Maori arts. The committees cover an array of art practices including traditional protocols, writing in Maori and English, weaving, ta moko (Maori tattoo), contemporary dance, music, and visual arts.
Elaine Bevan, Weaver
Elaine was exposed to weaving as a child watching her cousin weave kete (baskets) and began to weave in 1985 while carrying her first child. She incorporates contemporary designs in her work but is drawn more to traditional styles and materials. Elaine's designs usually unfold as her work progresses. She has always admired fine work whether it is mahi whatu (plaiting) or mahi raranga (finger weaving) and gets more satisfaction out of making pieces of this kind although it demands more time, skill, and patience.
Elaine graduated with a bachelor of design and art at Te Wänanga o Raukawa (a Maori university) in 2001. She taught basic weaving at the local primary schools and college in Otaki and is currently employed at Te Wänanga tutoring diploma of design and art students. She recently became a toi iho accredited artist, which is a trade mark of authenticity and quality in Maori arts and crafts.
Donna Campbell, Weaver
Donna Campbell is a multi-media artist known for her innovative contemporary work in flax. Much of her recent work explores the female form, which she describes as "sourcing the feminine in Maori art," and incorporates both found and made objects into her work. Her work is at the cutting edge and shows younger artists the possibilities of the flax medium. Other recent works explore the post-modern concept of deconstruction. Donna implements the technology of the ancient art form of raranga to create new and innovative works that carry the mana (prestige) of weaving and speak with the voice of the urban modern Maori. As a practitioner and teacher of raranga for many years, she is constantly inspired by the complexity of pattern and the commitment it takes to practice the craft.
This year, Donna completed her master of fine arts at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design, Auckland, and in 1999 received her post-graduate diploma of fine arts at Elam School of Fine Art, Auckland. She was also a graduate of Waiariki Polytechnic in 1991, with a diploma of craft design Maori.
Pip Devonshire, Weaver
Pip has been weaving for almost 20 years, initially learning to make kete whiri (woven baskets) but also learing täniko (a decorative weaving technique) and whatu (finger weaving). In 1994 she started working at Taumata o te Ra Marae (meeting house) on tukutuku (woven decorative panels) and then on köwhaiwhai (scroll painting on rafters) for Manomano, her wharetupuna (ancestral house) in the Rangitikei area (lower North Island of New Zealand). She went on to learn other weaving techniques when she trained at Te Wananga o Raukawa (a Maori university) as a design and art student, graduating with a bachelor of design and art in 2000.
She currently teaches at Te Wananga o Raukawa as a tutor for the diploma of design and art. Pip now mainly works in raranga and whatu although she is looking forward to picking up köwhaiwhai again in the future.
Kohai Grace, Weaver
Kohai Grace began weaving at the Wellington Arts Centre in 1986. In 1990 she was commissioned by the National Library of New Zealand to produce tukutuku (woven panels) for the Nga Kupe Korero exhibition, which toured the country and addressed issues surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi, Aotearoa New Zealand's founding treaty, 150 years after its signing.
Kohai enjoys the natural materials with which she creates, especially muka (flax fiber) and the special look and feel of this material which inspires her to create. She also mixes contemporary materials such as copper wire with the natural dyed flax fiber. She enjoys the way that weavers learn from each other, being inspired by the techniques, patterns, and colors they have used in their artwork.
Kohai was one of the curators and exhibiting artists in the 2004 exhibition Te Aho Mutunga Kore The Eternal Thread in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Kohai is currently a tutor at Te Wananga o Raukawa in Otaki and lives in Porirua, near Wellington.
Kahu Te Kanawa, Weaver
Often, when Kahu Te Kanawa was a young girl growing up in the small, rural Waikato town of Oparure, just south of Te Kuiti, she would wonder why people were so intrigued with her mother and grandmother's prowess at weaving. Kahu, herself a highly acclaimed weaver, can now appreciate what all the fuss was about. As a child I didn't realise how valuable my mum and grandmum were—I had my own matauranga (knowledge) on my back door step.
Weaving started to take Kahu's interest in early adulthood and by the time she was 26 she had completed her first korowai (traditional cloak). Since that time Kahu has exhibited and sold many artworks in Aotearoa New Zealand and worldwide. She is currently the programme manager of the arts school at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, the largest Maori university in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Heeni Kerekere, Weaver, Painter, and Clayworker
Heeni's contemporary artworks are the result of continually adapting traditional skills. Coming from a traditional weaving background, Heeni creates contemporary artworks using natural materials in innovative and complex ways. She exhibits nationally and internationally and her work is held in public and private collections.
Under the tutelage of master weaver Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, she learned traditional weaving skills. She also learned different techniques such as flax-dyeing, harvesting, and conservation. Heeni continued her arts training by completing a five-year diploma course at Toihoukura, Visual Art and Design School at Gisborne's Tairawhiti Polytechnic in the North Island of New Zealand. In 1996 she was a recipient of the Ruanuku Award from the Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre. In 1998, together with four other friends and whanau (family members), she opened a Maori art gallery and shop called UKAIPO Art Gallery. Located in Gisborne, the gallery hosted regular monthly exhibitions and community art wananga (courses).
Matekino Lawless, Weaver
Matekino Lawless is an acclaimed master weaver to her people of Tainui and the many with whom she has shared her knowledge. Traditional techniques and processes create the beautifully crafted weaving and whatu (plaiting) in her very fine examples of whariki (woven mats), kete (woven baskets), and kakahu (cloaks). Her work is held in museums, private collections, and marae throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.
Matekino pays tribute to her kuia (female elder). She was nurtured the early years of her childhood in the shelter of her humble kauta (kitchen), which was beautifully lined with her finely woven whariki (woven mats). This has been a major contributing factor to her weaving life, a life she could not see achieved without the daily handling of harakeke (flax) to create something beautiful. Matekino is of a generation that still recalls the lifestyle and ways of their tupuna (ancestors), and she brings this knowledge alive by sharing it with a younger generation of weavers.
Ranui Ngarimu, Weaver
From a wide range of interests and hobbies, weaving is Ranui's first love. The skills and knowledge that she has acquired come from her own iwi (tribe) and hapu (sub-tribe) as well as master weavers Diggeress Te Kanawa, Te Aue Davis, Pipiwharauroa Pene, and her late husband's family.
As well as being a skilled weaver, Ranui is concerned about the preservation of intellectual property of weavers and traditional terminology associated with Maori weaving. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She lives and works in her own tribal area in Christchurch where she is a mother and grandmother.
Edna Pahewa, Weaver
Edna is the daughter of internationally renowned weaver, Emily Schuster, who founded the weaving school (then known as The Maori Arts and Crafts Institute) at Te Puia in Rotorua. The mantle was then handed to Edna's twin sister, Dawn Smith, who passed away only a few years after their mother.
Through teaching and sharing her family's love of weaving, Edna has found her own peace and place. Edna is passionate about her work as a weaver; to nurture, preserve, and develop the techniques and knowledge of raranga (weaving), whatu (plaiting), and taniko (geometric decorative weaving) in traditional and modern contexts for Maori weavers. Edna has taught weaving at Te Papa o Te Aroha and later at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, both in Tokoroa on the North Island of New Zealand. She is presently head weaver at The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia in Rotorua, a role created by her late mother. She is currently chairperson of Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa, the national collective of weavers.
Reihana Parata, Weaver
Reihana began weaving when she worked on tuku tuku (woven panels) for the Rehua marae (meeting place) in Christchurch, the tribal home of her people, Ngai Tahu. She continued to develop her weaving skills under tutors such as master weaver, the late Emily Schuster.
Now, with over 45 years experience behind her, she is considered one of Aotearoa New Zealand's most accomplished weavers. She regularly passes on her skills and experience in mahi korowai (making traditional cloaks) and tukutuku at wananga (courses) throughout the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since the 1950s, she has been actively involved in a number Maori arts and culture organizations including the Maori Woman's Welfare League, Nga Puna Waihanga, Moananui a Kiwa Weavers, Te Roopu Waiata Maori (National Maori Choir) and Te Ahikaaroa and Ngararanui Culture Clubs.
In 2003 Reihana won a Te Waka Toi award 'Ta Kingi Ihaka' to acknowledge a lifetime contribution to Maori arts. The award marked Reihana's special involvement in weaving and her work with performance groups.
Sonia Snowden, Weaver
Sonia is a senior weaver who learned her craft from some of Aotearoa's finest weavers including Ramari Ropata, Emily Schuster, Erenora Puketapu Hetet, Aromea Tahiwi, and Nellie Frost. She is well known for her intricate kete (woven baskets) and whariki (woven mats). She uses material such as harakeke (flax) and kinikini (flax skirt strands).
Having spent many years as a tutor at Te Whare Wananga o Raukawa, Sonia now spends her time returning the traditional knowledge to Mäori communities on the lower North Island of New Zealand. In 2004 she won a grant to teach for a year at two marae (meeting places) and she is enjoying sharing customary techniques of weaving whariki.
Christina Hurihia Wirihana, Weaver
Christina is a contemporary artist. She is known and acclaimed in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally for her weaving, which incorporates a mixture of traditional and contemporary processes. A skilled traditional weaver, she was tutored by expert weavers including her mother, Matekino Lawless, whose work is also represented in The Eternal Thread exhibition.
Weaving has been her life's work and in the last twenty years she has shared experiences and artwork nationally and internationally via workshops, conferences, commissions, artist residences, and exhibitions. She has exhibited, tutored, and lectured on weaving worldwide. Her work is in collections in the USA, Europe, and Australasia. In 2004 Christina represented Aotearoa New Zealand at the Pacific Arts Festival in Belau.