23 Aug 2015

Weaving the past into the future

From Spectrum, 12:10 pm on 23 August 2015
Jim Schuster, Cathy Schuster

Jim and Cathy Schuster in front of a tukutuku panel that has some batons originally hand-carved by Jim’s great-great grandfather Tene Waitere. Photo: RNZ/ Lisa Thompson

“My main job has become not only restoring the artworks but restoring the knowledge that has been lost” – Jim Schuster, Heritage New Zealand Maori Built Heritage Advisor

Born and raised in Rotorua, Jim Schuster’s family has maintained and practised Maori Arts and Crafts for at least five generations.

His great-aunt Rangitiaria Dennan, better known as Guide Rangi, left a lasting impression on Jim, as did his mother Emily Schuster, a renowned master weaver.

And his great-great grandfather Tene Waitere, helped carve Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito, a small wharenui that survived the Tarawera eruption and more recently a fire at Clandon Park in Surrey, England, where it now resides.  

It is little wonder then the softly-spoken former teacher followed in his whanau’s footsteps.

Jim is now a highly sought after advisor for restoration work on meeting-house taonga, both within New Zealand and around the world.

“All that knowledge flowing over us…you absorbed it while you were helping out,” Jim says.

“It has come all those generations…we’re keeping it alive, it’s their legacy…and those families who haven’t got those skills…come to learn from us”

Jim’s work is often complemented by his wife Cathy’s skills as a weaver, and together the pair regularly conduct workshops passing on their skills.

Spectrum’s Lisa Thompson travelled to Lake Rotoiti to meet a couple devoted to maintaining tradition and authenticity through the art of conservation.