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Weaving a way to community

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12 September 2019

A group of Housing New Zealand tenants, their whānau and friends have been doing their bit to keep with korowai weaving traditions during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

L-R: Area Manager Julia learns a few tricks from Nuia.

Growing up around his grandmother’s traditional Māori weaving meant Peter was the perfect person to speak to when a neighbour wanted to start a korowai weaving group.

As well as having great pride in his ancentry, Peter looks after the common room shared by he and his neighbours at their Housing New Zealand village in Manurewa.

"We all grew up with it," Peter says when reflecting on korowai and other Māori arts.

"Some of those korowai denoted your rangatiratanga – to have your korowai was to know who you were. It’s a treasure."

With the neighbours working together, a group was set up and weekly weaving sessions began. Anywhere between six and a dozen people now gather most weeks on a Tuesday.

One of the regulars is Nuia. Again, weaving is an important part of her family’s history.

"It’s been in my system from birth, I’d say. My mother was a weaver and I followed after her," Nuia says.

As an adult, she took that skill even further and studied the art so she could teach it to others.

"When you’ve been told about weaving from a young age, it stays in your mind if you’re the type of person who wants to become a weaver. It stays in your mind that the tūpuna left this for us.

"When you make a korowai, wear it with pride knowing it’s something that was made with love. Hopefully the person who made it knows their tūpuna is watching them. If you’re thinking about your tūpuna all the time, I think these toi Māori will flow on through generations."

Many who attend the sessions are related – the group is just as much about whānau as it is about the korowai tāonga. It’s about hapori – community – as well.

That’s why the group is keen to expand. It matters not what your heritage is, or if you live at the HNZ village, just that you’re interested in learning about a Māori treasure.

During Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Tenancy Managers Nas and Chris headed to the meeting, along with Area Manager Julia Tou, to get a feel for what it takes to weave korowai.

Nuia told them her students were expected to finish their first korowai in four months. A large cloak would take her about a month but – still made with love – had been finished as quickly as two weeks.

"Mine will take three years,” responded Mavis – one of the students of the group – with a chuckle.

Recently retired, she wanted to learn about the craft and about her heritage. But the group was also a way to support one another as they navigated some of the issues facing older people.

"Using this beautiful room, it’s got that aura of whānau. It gives that sense of looking after people – it doesn’t matter what about. People who have other knowledge like advice for benefits and services – that’s what we talk about.

"It’s sharing information about life and how we’re going to cope with our pension."

L-R: Tenancy Managers Chris and Nas with Nuia, Mavis and Peter.

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