Strengthening the ties of mahi raranga

By Jessica Tyson

Master weaver Te Atiwei Ririnui has arrived in Arizona after winning a two-week arts residency to develop his knowledge of mahi raranga.

The Ngāpuhi, Ngātiwai, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui descendant was one of six chosen out of 60 applicants for the residency in a town named Ajo, home to the Tohono O'odham Native American tribe.

“I kind of stick out over here. People know if you’re local or not. It’s a small town. Every time I walk somewhere I get hit up, ‘Are you that weaver that comes from New Zealand that was advertised on social media? Yea I am,” he says.

One of his goals for the trip is to create a koha to give back to the organisation he is staying with, the Sonoran Desert Conference Center.

“I’m going to leave a piece of raranga here for them. So I’m going to leave a kete whakairo as my kaupapa here and I want to weave Poutama, he told Te Kāea.

“At the same time, I’m trying to figure out what can influence my art form here in terms of patterning, in terms of design.”

Source: Te Atiwei Ririnui

Ririnui, also from Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Mutunga ki Wharekauri, says the technique locals use to weave is different from Māori.

“Their kete are circular, are round like pottery pots and they start in the centre to get the diameter. It’s stitched as you go along. It’s very similar to whatu, he says.

“I’m not sure how I’m going to blend the two – that’s the challenge.”

He says the material used by locals is much shorter as well.

“So we have an advantage there because of the length. It's learning how to add in their techniques that’s something I’d want to learn here.”

Ririnui received a warm welcome. Source: Te Atiwei Ririnui

He says members of the public will come and visit him in his open studio throughout his stay and he'll also host his own pop-up show on January 17.

“It will be down in the plaza interacting with the public. It’s more of an interaction with the local town and just to share mahi raranga, talk about the resources we use.”

Before weaving full-time Ririnui worked in security. After graduating with a Masters of Applied Indigenous Knowledge at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in 2018, he says it’s rewarding being able to pursue his passion in mahi raranga.

“Before it was about holding down a job to sustain a living. Now it’s about making sure that you produce taonga and be self-sustainable.”

His accommodation and food expenses were covered in the residency and he received financial support from the Ngātiwai Trust Board, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Te Rangi and Te Rūnanga o Ngāpuhi to help fund other costs.

Following the residency he will spend a week in Vancouver, Canada, to meet with other weavers, including the president of the National Baskets Organisation.