19 June 2014
League Partners with Museum for Major Exhibition
In the early 1950s, the Maori Women’s Welfare League became concerned the traditional art of Maori weaving was at risk
of being lost, or dying out completely.
A plea was made from the League’s executive arm to its regions, and the Maniapoto Branch based in Te Kuiti, heeded the
In particular, founding League members Dame Rangimarie Hetet, her daughter Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa, Rora Pakititi (MBE)
Hine Tuheke and Miriama Tahi who have all since passed held frequent weaving classes in their respective homes and
initiated what is now a wellknown and respected legacy.
Sixty years later, the art of traditional and contemporary Maori weaving is very much alive and well, with more than a
1000 known weavers, some of who will also be acknowledged and celebrated in an upcoming exhibition entitled E Nga Uri Whakatupu at the Waikato Museum.
The exhibition’s title is in fact the name of a waiata (song) composed by Dr Rangimarie Hetet that talks about the call
for rangatahi (young people) to value and practice traditional knowledge.
Her daughter, Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa went on to become a founding member of the weaving group Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o
Aotearoa, alongside her close friend, the late Emily Schuster of Rotorua, whose work will also feature in the
Diggeress’s daughter, Kahu Te Kanawa, a weaver artist and academic currently holds the Deputy Chair’s position of Te
Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa. Another daughter, Rangituatahi is a textile conservator at Te Papa.
With the Hetet –Te Kanawa Collection making up the core of the exhibition, it draws from it being the largest private
collection of Maori textiles, from five generations of one family, in the world. Since 1998, the collection has been
held under a Kaitiaki arrangement with the Waikato Museum, and includes over 75 items.
Although Dame Rangimarie Hetet and Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa’s works have been exhibited nationally and internationally,
it’s the inclusion of a korowai, by Te Rongopamamao, Dr Rangimarie Hetet’s mother, that is likely to draw special
acclaim. Te Rongopamamao took part in the recently recognized Battle of Orakau.
In a newspaper interview in the mid 1960s, Dame Rangimarie Hetet credited the League’s call as the catalyst to producing
a number of works for which she earned accolades, an honorary doctorate and title of Dame in the British honours system.
She died in 1995, aged 103, and lies next to her late husband Tuheka Hetet who served in WW1.
Dame Rangimarie Hetet and Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa always credited their renewed interest in weaving when they joined the
Maori Women’s Welfare League in 1951. From a 1970 newspaper article, Rangimarie is quoted as saying, “I used to watch my
mother when I was little, but I was never really interested. I knew how to weave and make things but I didn’t want to
Likewise, her daughter, Diggeress Te Kanawa, an avid League member and weaving artist, was given an Honorary Doctorate
from the University of Waikato and made an inaugural NZ Living Icon Award recipient in 2003. After her passing in 2009,
the NZ Arts Foundation passed the icon on to acclaimed filmmaker, Sir Peter Jackson who has kindly lent it to the
Waikato Museum for inclusion in the exhibition.
At the time of his presentation from former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, Sir Peter Jackson was made aware the
icon had been previously held by Mrs Te Kanawa and admitted he researched her work and was delighted to know the icon
had its former life on a mantelpiece in the Te Kanawa household.
While Sir Peter Jackson is unable to confirm attending the opening, he has signaled his commitment to view the E Nga Uri Whakatupu exhibition.
The Waikato Museum and Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora partnership is likely to see League members from different
parts of the country involved in exhibition guides, and potentially co hosting events.
There is also an opportunity for the E Nga Uri Whakatupu exhibition to show at another national venue, and an international tour has not been ruled out.