Raranga - sharing the knowledge of our taonga
Raranga (weaving) has always been a large part of our culture. Not only is it a way to create practical everyday items and decorative pieces, woven works are also a way in which we share our kōrero and history. These pieces are taonga (treasures), and we need to encourage the passing on of knowledge of raranga so future generations can continue to create taonga.
How was it used?
In the early times, the art of weaving was essential to how our tūpuna lived. Our tūpuna created whākariki (floor mats) as basic floor covering, as well as creating finer whākariki for sleeping, the birth of a child and tangi. Our tūpuna also wove kete (woven baskets) for carrying items such as kai (food). However, weaving wasn’t only used to create practical items like whākariki and kete, it was also a way our tūpuna shared kōrero, and preserved history for future generations. By using a range of patterns and colours, our rich history is shown through woven pieces of art such as the tukutuku panels you see in the wharenui.
Harakeke (flax) was primarily used to create these taonga, which were in abundance across the rohe. Once it is cut, it goes through a long preparation process before it can be used to weave.
The harakeke gets split so the tough edges are removed, then is divided into strips and sorted into even lengths. These strips get scraped, making the harakeke flexible and soft, ready for weaving. Sharp mussel shells were often used to soften the flax, which helps to draw out excess moisture.
The colour of the harakeke is also incredibly important as different colours create patterns which helps to communicate the kōrero. Mud and tree bark were typically used to colour the flax, although today dye is used instead.
One of our 2018 Tertiary scholarship recipients April Tahi Hohaia, is currently studying a Bachelor of Art – Raranga at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Studying a bachelor’s degree in weaving is enabling April to gain knowledge of the traditions and tikanga handed down by her tūpuna, which she can then pass on to future generations.
During her study of Maunga Kura Toi, her individual project was to create a Purekereke, a name belonging to tūpuna who wore a Paakee (rain cape) every day. These were a practical garment, worn by warriors as they were waterproof, robust and dark to aid concealment from their enemy.
This piece of art has had a very successful exhibition in Rotorua with much positive feedback given and has set a very high standard of toi in a public pop up gallery.
Raranga is a great way to connect with the past and our tūpuna and keep our culture alive.
It is important that we learn the art and pass down this knowledge for future generations. Reach out to your whānau or kaumātua, to see if they can pass on their knowledge to you so you can help to keep the art of raranga alive.