Raranga – art form with career opportunities.
NEW Zealanders are discovering raranga (weaving) is an art form that can lead to career opportunities.
There is a steady increase in male weavers in New Zealand each year, says raranga artist Sonny Hau.
He learnt raranga from his great grandmother who taught him how to weave smaller pieces – he has now been weaving for 12 years, he says.
“I love the flexibility of weaving – the range of materials that are used means that we have no boundaries or limits to any form shape or size.”
He feels he has been privileged by always having the opportunity to explore his own style of weaving.
He has been lucky to be able to sell his work to many galleries in New Zealand and overseas, he says.
A love for weaving comes from having the abliltiy to create something unique, unusual and eye catching, he says.
“There is no cost to create a kete – just time and knowledge.”
He says he uses native fibres such as kōrari and harakeke for weaving.
The idea of weaving is not restricted to kete and can be seen in a theological way through people meeting others, he says.
“For instance the Rugby World Cup that brought people together to support their country the whole world was woven together in this country for the cup.”
He says it is a way of life and he can make a living off it.
“Weaving has been able to sustain me.”
Te Papa’s Maori collection manager and textile artist Mark Sykes has been weaving for 14 years.
He says he is passionate about the art form because it is wide and varied.
It is not just about the weaving – it becomes about the story and people associated with the art, he says.
There have always been males practising raranga, but they have been less visible than women.
There are more men coming on-board because they can make it into a career, he says.
Raranga has led him into more opportunities and he is now in his last year of studying a Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies at Victoria University.
As one of four collection managers at Te Papa, he has helped to catalogue weaving.
He is currently helping to curate two raranga related exhibitions, one of which is a korowai (cloak) exhibition that he will be weaving a cloak for, he says.
Both exhibitions open at Te Papa in June.
After Māori arrived in New Zealand they learned about the useful properties of flax.
The material is versatile and can be woven, twisted and plaited.
A wide range of items can be made such as footwear, traps, fishing nets, cords and ropes.
Māori women used flax to weave containers, baskets and mats from the leaves.
Although European clothing replaced flax garments, weaving as an art survived.