A Pukekohe weaving tutor is encouraging her Pākehā students to ensure weaving skills are kept alive.
Student Caroline Evans starts her korowai project Photo: RNZ / John Boynton
Whāriki o Te Ao tutor Emily Whyte has been teaching people how to make korowai, or traditional Māori cloaks, for a decade.
Ms Whyte also teaches her students tīkanga around weaving and the local Māori community, but ill health has taken a toll on Ms Whyte in recent months and she was looking to her students – mostly Pākehā women – to carry on the weaving classes.
She said they were hesitant.
“With my ladies here, because they’re Pākehā, they’re a bit iffy to step up because of the work itself and the people, Māori people.”
However, she believed her students would be more than capable of teaching and running the korowai-making classes.
“Most of [the local Māori community] knows these ladies because they’ve been with me in and out through the years … and I’ve made sure to put it out there,” Ms Whyte said.
Whāriki o Te Ao students weave in Emily Whyte’s garage Photo: RNZ / John Boynton
Sue Tuivaga has been with Whāraki o Te Ao for nine years.
She joined after seeing a photo of Emily in the local paper with graduates wearing their korowai.
“I rang her, said and I said, ‘I’m not Māori, I’m Ngāti Pom’, and I said, ‘Does that matter?’ and she said, ‘No, everyone’s welcome’.”
Over the years, Mrs Tuivaga said she had been embraced by Emily and her weaving whānau.
“Many of the ladies are extremely talented. They may not look it [but] you can’t judge a book by its cover – but gosh they do some wonderful stuff.”
Vaulette Oliver wanted to explore her Māori roots and decided to take the class.
The Ngāti Mamoe decendant has gone on to make a korowai for when her grandchildren graduate from university.
“My granddaughter said, ‘Nana, it’ll be years’, and I said, ‘It’s gonna be years for me to actually finish one.'”