FYI – New exhibition at Toi Māori Aotearoa ‘Whiriwhira’

Whiriwhiria is an exhibition showing now at Toi Māori Aotearoa featuring new weaving (made over the summer) by a group of Māori weavers connected to the Kāpiti Coast township of Ōtaki and the tertiary weaving programme at Te Wānanga o Raukawa.

Curator, Pip Devonshire, describes Whiriwhiria as demonstrating “…our broad base of weaving experience and profiles individual creative expression. Each artist has a distinctive style and their weaving exemplifies dexterity in form and woven detail inspired by the rich foundation of ancestral weaving.”

Of the 13 weavers in Whiriwhiria three – Sonia Snowden (Ngāti Whatua, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine), Karl Leonard (Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Pahipoto, Ngāti Raukawa) and Kohai Grace (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Porou, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Raukawa) – will be showing work on the Toi Māori Aotearoa stand at the 2022 Art Fair in November.

The exhibition title, Whiriwhiria, was given by Whaea Sonia Snowden, “…the beloved elder of the group and cherished for her strong leadership within the weaving community of Ōtaki over many years. Sonia is also a member of Te Kāhui Whiritoi, the master class of Māori weavers acknowledged by the national Māori weavers committee and New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, whose work was the focus of a recent exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna Waiwhetā.”

Karl Leonard is widely respected for the delicacy of his work in raranga and whatu, and is an expert in the challenging art of tāniko. Mastery of these skills are required to create piupiu, and there is high demand for Karl’s piupiu, particularly among the highest-ranked kapa haka groups in Aotearoa.

Despite that acclaim, Karl’s passion lies with raranga harakeke and experimentation with the kete form, along with his constant return to tāniko poi and exploration of rare and original variations.

Karl’s intriguing poi taniko, is a very rare form of contemporary Māori weaving, which emulates the COVID-19 structure and relates the transference of the poi from hand to hand to the transmissibility of the virus.

Kohai Grace’s first solo exhibition was in 2007 titled ‘Tūkākahumai – garments stand forth’, a series of ‘black on black kākahu’ that encapsulated her research, exploration, and ‘obsession’ with muka and whatu woven forms within her Master of Māori Visual Arts study, completed in 2008.

Presently Kohai has turned her attention to tukutuku. She enjoys a project that stimulates and challenges the mind whether it be in its form, ‘story to design’ or use of materials, and celebrates its relevance and value not only confined to the wharenui, but for public display and in private homes, and says ‘ there is always a story to tell’.  Kohai is currently working on two large tukutuku artworks for display in Porirua, being her iwi rohe of Ngāti Toa Rangatira; one panel acknowledges and reminds us that we also have chiefly tūpuna wāhine to celebrate, and the other ‘a flag’ commemorating Ngāti Toa Rangatira signatories to TeTiriti o Waitangi.

The exhibition provides a snapshot on the intergenerational movement of Māori weavers nationwide and the operations of Toi Māori Aotearoa. The quality, ambition and execution of work in the Whiriwhiria exhibition testifies to the high standing of these weavers within the national body of Māori weavers.

Whiriwhiria in on now and closes 17 June 2022. To learn more about the exhibition, and to see and purchase works, click here.

Images: Sonia Snowden (Ngāti Whatua, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine), Tatai Whetū Ki Te Rangi-I Te Ao, I Te Po Kete Whakairo 2022, kiekie, muka, traditional dyes, 300 x 300 mm. Image courtesy of the artist and Toi Māori Aotearoa.
Kohai Grace (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Porou, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Raukawa), Te Ao, Te Pō (A Series, No. 4), Kiekie, pine, cane, paint, Tukutuku panel, mūmū pattern. Lightness, darkness, 900 x 385 mm. Image courtesy of the artist and Toi Māori Aotearoa.