Weaving kete whakairo

Weavers Tarryn Motutere and Jo Torr at the TECT Heritage Garden at The Elms | Te Papa Tauranga in Mission St. Photo: John Borren.

The weaving together of two cultures is being illustrated in a new way this month, with an outdoor installation at The Elms’ Heritage Garden.

Renowned artists Tarryn Motutere and Jo Torr have come together to exhibit unique patterned bags woven with flax, known as kete whakairo.

The exhibition, titled Kete Whakairo: Remembering Known and Unknown Weavers, is part of the remaining visual arts programme of the Tauranga Arts Festival, of which all live performances were cancelled. Jo and Tarryn, however, have been able to go ahead with their plans, as their exhibition can be safely held in the open-air environment of the pavilion under alert level 2 guidelines.

Historically, the location itself reflects the coming together of both Māori and Europeans at the site on Mission Street, with the two artists themselves coming from different streams of cultures. It’s about weaving together, learning from each other and sharing knowledge.

“My work is all about mutual cultural exchange and I explore that through my art work,” says Jo, who has been exhibiting up and down the country since 2001.

Her work has featured in public collections across the country, including Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum, Christchurch Museum and Te Papa.

“More recently I’ve learned how to weave in the Māori way, and explored where the cultures meet.

“Like everything, there is an evolution in the development of things. Māori were influenced in their techniques and patterns by their exposure to European practices, as well as influencing European techniques.”

Weavers Jo Torr and Tarryn Motutere at the TECT Heritage Garden at The Elms | Te Papa Tauranga in Mission St. Photo: John Borren.

The two weavers, who will be weaving onsite during the exhibition, have placed the kete on chairs in the pavilion to create the feeling of the female elders who sit during a pōwhiri with their kete.

“I was excited to be able to share the patterns that weavers of days gone by have given for us to learn from,” says Tarryn.

“When you sit on a marae in a pōwhiri, you see the kuia with their kete on their laps or by their ankles. They still have a 'seat' at the table, and are still contributing to our practice in meaningful ways."

Their work not only reflects many of the 208 Māori weaving designs presented in Mick Pendergrast’s well-known resource Raranga Whakairo (1984), but the installation also includes patterns from kete in The Elms collection and those associated with local weavers.

The exhibition in the TECT Heritage Garden at The Elms | Te Papa Tauranga, which launched with a blessing on Wednesday, October 20, will run for ten days, and is open daily from 11am-3pm. On Labour weekend it will be open from 10am – 4pm.

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