27 May, 2007
Closing of the Toi Mâori Exhibition ‘The Eternal Thread’
Christchurch Art Gallery
Rau rangatira ma, tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra –
te Eternal Thread, Te Aho Mutunga Kore.
Tenei te mihi mahana ki a koutou.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena ra tatou katoa.
Thank you for the honour of being a part of this wonderful exhibition. I would especially like to welcome Linda Grennell, President of the Maori Women's Welfare League who is here today.
There are so many people who have contributed to this event that I am not able to thank them all. However, there are a few key people who should specifically be acknowledged.
I want to thank:
- Ngai Tahu Kaiwhakahaere, Mark Solomon, as kaitiaki of the Eternal Thread Exhibition
- Jenny Harper and staff of Christchurch City Art Gallery for hosting the final installation of the exhibition
- Darcy Nicholas and staff of Pataka Gallery for curating the exhibition
- Waana Davis, the Board and staff of Toi Mâori Aotearoa for the support and management of the exhibition
- Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa – the National Mâori Weavers Collective – whose dream it was for this exhibition to take place and who then set out on the path to make it happen
- And Ranui Ngarimu who has been the project convenor.
I also want to thank Ranui for taking the time to show me around the exhibition last month. Ranui was able to make the weaving speak to me in a new way, by unlocking the stories of the artists, the materials and the designs.
As Erenora Puketapu-Hetet said Mâori weaving is full of symbolism and hidden meanings, embodied with the spiritual values and beliefs of the Mâori people and that art itself is sacred and inter-related with the concepts of mauri, mana and tapu.
She said "in Mâoridom, weaving is acknowledged as having its own life force, and is accorded a level of respect depending on the mana of the weaver and the qualities of the weaving process."
It is fitting to pay tribute to Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, and all of the other weavers who kept the traditional skills alive and passed them on to a new generation of weavers who have given them a contemporary flavour, mixing traditional and modern materials, and taking this art form to a new level. The skills are traditional and so are many of the themes and motifs, but the expression is modern and it is distinctly and unmistakably of this land.
So thank you Ranui for helping to open my eyes, and thank you Toi Mâori for helping to open the eyes of tens of thousands of people both here and on the West Coast of America to the rich variety of traditional and contemporary Mâori weaving, which speaks of our identity as a nation. That distinctive New Zealand identity rests very substantially on te ao Mâori. It is what sets us apart as a nation.
Because it is primarily a women’s art form, weaving is also particularly important to my Ministry – the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Woven flax is part of the Ministry’s visual identity, appearing on all its publications. Among other things it symbolises the interweaving of peoples and the strength in working closely together. This concept of interconnectedness also flows through this exhibition.
While this may be the last day of this particular exhibition, the eternal thread will be picked up and woven into a future opportunity for Toi Maori and the collective.
Finally may I acknowledge the extraordinary weavers who wove the korowai and the kete, and the other artists who created the other art works that have together made the eternal thread such a wonderful experience for so many people. And can I also acknowledge those whose works appear as photographic images of our history and who have long since passed away. They have given context and depth to this extraordinary exhibition.
Erenora Puketapu-Hetet once expressed concern that the complexity of modern living has meant we have grown away from nature and understanding its deeper meaning. This exhibition has enabled us to experience an art form that connects us to the land.
Thank you all.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena ra tatou katoa.