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Motueka flax weavers learn traditional skills

November 12th, 2014
[by Shirley Frater]

Motueka Arts Council hosted Raranga harakeke flax weaving 2 day workshop last weekend for weavers with some experience in the craft.

Ruth Port, Te Rarawa and Te Aupouri, of Raglan was the guest tutor, teaching eight students the techniques and skills of making a Whariki mat and to share tikanga of local customs.

The mats required each student to prepare up to 500 strips [whenu] of flax before the start of the 2 day workshop.

Ruth found the harakeke grown in the area was much thicker and firmer than the same varieties grown in the warmer parts of the North Island.

The students were able to incorporate dyed whenu strips to create patterns in the mats. A slide show of photos was used to show early techniques of dying the harakeke strips or piupui [ceremonial skirts] using a large Totara wooden bath, various types of plant material and hot stones, to define patterns of light and dark. Soaking in various types of mud was another method.

Ruth is on the Board of the National weavers group, Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa, and has travelled to the British Museum in London researching a Whariki sail that is in the Captain Cook collection.

The workshop was supported by a grant from Creative Communities Tasman. While in the region Ruth was taken to see Brian Flintoff and Richard Nunns and their collections of Nga Taonga Puoro and Raranga.

Ruth Port explains joining strips to Claudine

Ruth with Gay Mitchell

Lesleigh working on her mat

Amond using purple-dyed harakeke


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