I te Ara Taonga: Preservation Workshop at Te Ōhākī ki Waitomo

nā Paora Tibble, Kaiwhanake ā-Iwi Iwi Development Adviser

Back in May an email came through from Cara-Lee Hetet, asking about the possibility of holding a Māori textiles preservation workshop in Waitomo. This was after Māori Textiles Conservator, Rangi Te Kanawa, had delivered a presentation to the Maniapoto Raranga/Whatu Level 5 Weaving Course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Workshop participants Cara-Lee Hetet and Hazel Wander.  Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

Travelling to marae around the country, I get to see Rangi Te Kanawa weave her magic on a regular basis. When I speak on the marae or in the whare at these hui, my main job is to connect the expert to the people of that place, to the kaupapa, to the taonga that has called us there. A part of that process is acknowledging her whakapapa.

Rangi (wearing white scarf) explaining how to make the storage boxes for the taonga.  Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

Rangi Te Kanawa is a granddaughter of Rangimārie Hetet, and a daughter of Diggeress Te Kanawa. Both of these women were master weavers. When Rangi delivers a presentation on her mahi as a Māori textiles conservator, we’re talking at least three generations deep. She talks about how her mum was on the phone one day talking to her aunty Te Aue Davis (another master weaver from Ngāti Maniapoto), when Rangi’s mum asked if she was interested in learning about textile preservation. The rest is history.

When Rangi first trained to become a conservator, she had to sit School Certificate Science, so she knows how hard it can be to grasp the concepts behind taonga preservation. Rangi makes the science palatable for her audience, there’s graphs, there’s micrographic images, and before and after photos. She talks us through the science of textile preservation and she shares learnings from her PhD research into paru (the mud used to dye Māori textiles).

Participant Cara-Lee Hetet said: “Rangi’s presentation on the preservation and the scientific knowledge helped me understand the cause of deterioration in textiles.”

Rolled storage underway by workshop participants.  Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

Further feedback from workshop attendees included: “… this workshop has allowed me to look at all taonga that I may want to “care” for, that I have collected, made etc … for my mokopuna …”

The breadth of learning in a single weekend is wide, as shown by this comment: “[I learnt about] caring for all manner of taonga, how to conserve, preserve, stabilise degradation of taonga. How home conditions add to destabilising the taonga, preserving iwi culture and future picture thinking, planting totara, kauri, other natives that are inherent for Māori taonga in the future. Assisting my hapū/iwi to think about preserving historical taonga.”

Here’s what a workshop looks like after all the mahi is done. Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

For me personally, this was a special workshop because it was held at Ohaki, in Waitomo. It’s a whare pora, a building set up for weaving, it’s on Te Kanawa whanau land. When Rangi’s mum passed away, she lay here before being taken to Te Tokanga-nui-a-noho in Te Kuiti.

You can see in one of the photos above one of the NSTP He Rauemi Resource Guides series, No.18: Caring for Māori Textiles, which we use both as a guide at these workshops and something for people to take home as they continue this mahi. 

He Rauemi Resource Guide No.18 – Caring for Māori Textiles

The Caring for Māori Textiles resource explains causes of deterioration, and provides practical examples of ways to look after textiles to ensure they have a long life. There’s also instructions on making a customised acid-free box, making rolled storage for kākahu and piupiu and options for displaying taonga. Its really useful and you can download a copy for free!

Download He Rauemi Resource Guide No.18 – Caring for Māori Textiles

If you’re interested in holding a taonga Māori preservation workshop at your marae, contact me:

Paora Tibble
Ngāti Porou, Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui
Iwi Development Adviser | Kaiwhanake ā-Iwi

National Services Te Paerangi
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
PO Box 467, Wellington 6011
029 601 0440