Te Wananga students and tutors feature in Matariki exhibition



Photo: left to right: Pip Devonshire,Hinepūororangi Tahupārae, Whaea Sonia Snowden, Dianne Prince, Chris Gerretzen and Elaine Bevan.


Mahara Gallery is celebrating Matariki, the Maori New Year with an exhibition which features 54 mahi toi, artworks by 30 weavers and carvers who are past and present tauira (students) and tutors of Otaki’s Te Wānanga o Raukawa.


Toi Whakarākai: Ngā Aho o te Whenua opened on Friday 3 July. It is the latest in a series of collaborations between the Gallery and Te Wananga over the past 20 years.


“We are thrilled to be able to present this comprehensive overview of work from Te Wananga weavers and carvers,” says Gallery Director, Janet Bayly.” Many of its tutors and associated artists have a national and international reputation.”


Te Wānanga o Raukawa is a significant Māori educational organisation in Kāpiti. It was the first Māori university established in New Zealand when it began to support the revival of te reo, Maori language, in 1975. 


The new moon following the rising of the star cluster Matariki  (also known as the Pleiades) signals the Māori New Year.  According to the lunar calendar the stars set on 15 May and rise on 13 – 16 July 2020. 


Customarily, this was a time to remember the deceased of the past year and to plan for the next year. Today, Matariki has been revived as a celebration of people, culture, language, spirituality, and history. It is a time for whānau (family) and friends to come together to reflect on the past 12 months and look towards the year ahead. 


Janet Bayly says the exhibition provides an opportunity for people and whānau from all walks of life to gather and learn more about mātauranga Māori.


“The weavers and carvers in this group are known for continually extending the traditions and forms of their toi mahi. The work is of very high quality,” she says.


Matariki features directly in several artworks, in particular the Tātai Whetū ki Te Rangi group of kete by Whaea Sonia Snowden These span more than ten years of her practice, and have featured on New Zealand postage stamps. 


Whaea Sonia’s interest in ‘Te Wharepora’, the house of weaving, and kaupapa Māori, the collective vision of Maori communities, flourished when she took up residence in the centre of her universe – Ōtaki - during the mid-1970s as a young mother. In 1978 Te Arawa kaumatua, Hiko Hohepa, who was teaching adult students te reo, fostered not only her interest in te reo but connected her with what was to become her passion - raranga, weaving. 


One of her main projects was during the mid-1990s when Whaea Sonia was chosen to lead the tukutuku restoration project for Rangiātea Church in Ōtaki. Awarded the Ngā Tohu a Kingi Ihaka award, 2019, her work is in the collection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and shown in embassies around the world. 

Weavers and carvers in the exhibition will be demonstrating their work and talking with visitors in the gallery over five Thursdays during the exhibition, between 10am and 3pm.

The dates are July 9 & 16, and August 13, 20 and 27.


Another special event will be Koro Don Te Maipi and ngā pakeke o Kāpiti performing a new waiata which he wrote during lockdown, inspired by Jacinda Ardern's descriptions of fighting the fire of Coronovirus, and some other waiata for Matariki. This takes place on Tuesday 14 July at 11am, entry is free. Nau mai haere mai, all welcome.