Navigation for Te Ahi Kaa

29 Poutū-te-rangi (March) 2009


"Many Art forms woven together"

Aho is taken from Aho creations the name behind the brand of Marino and Possum Shawls

Explanation by Joan McSweeney, Ngāti Pākeha

The Egyptians have hieroglyphics, indigenous Australians have dreamtime symbols and Māori have rock art, and while they're impossible to date, it's apparent the stylised images of figures and animals found in limestones caves around Aotearoa have a similarity with drawings found in Europe.

Over 80% of the rock art found in Aotearoa is located in South Canterbury. A limestone cave at the bottom of a gully on a farm in Ōpihi near Timaru has the oldest known example of this art form. Depicting three interlocked taniwha, the image was popularised in the 1970s when it appeared on the 20 cent stamp.

Theories about the pre-historic stylising and the location of the art work, in what seems like impenetrable sites, fit with the early stories of the people who inhabited the area. The people were nomadic and used the caves as a stopover and the art as a means of communicating about what they saw around them.

As the guardians of these wāhi tapu, it has fallen to Ngāi Tahu iwi to safeguard art work that becomes increasingly susceptible to the elements and, disturbingly, over-commercialisation. Maraea Rakuraku gains insight into the issues that face the iwi and other empathetic stakeholders, talking to two pākeha, Amanda Symon, curator of the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust and Alan Talbot, chairman of the Board of the South Canterbury Historic Places Trust.

One way Ngāi Tahu has managed the commercialisation issue has been by entering into a joint venture with AgResearch at Lincoln University, who developed a technology capable of weaving merino and possum fur. Shawls are made from the hybrid fur, and in a nod to rock art, printed with images designed by Ngāi Tahu artist Ross Hemara.

Ngāi Tahu iwi business development manager, Joan McSweeney has been at the forefront of the shawl business that operates under the brand name Aho Creations. Justine Murray meets with McSweeney who describes the business, its inspiration and what it means to immortalise images with such meaning to the Kāi Tahu people, and learns a few fashion terms while she's there.

Joan McSweeney and her label Aho Creations

Ngāi Tahu business development manager, Joan Mcsweeney, with a shawl using Ross Hemara designs. Use of image granted by Ngāi Tahu Runanga.

When Matiu Rata, no Ngāti Kūri, died in 1997, there was no doubting the legacy he left Aotearoa. Widely credited with mooting the idea that led to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975, Rata went on to found the political party Mana Motuhake in 1980. After retiring from parliament, Rata headed the collective of northern iwi Muriwhenua, whose Treaty claims in 1986, 1987 and 1988 would facilitate the settling of iwi fishing claims. In a recording from 1994 Rata talks to that kaupapa.

Waiata featured include:

Aotearoa from the album Ko wai Ka hua by Black Katz

Tikanga from the album Wai 100% by Wai 100%

Waka from LOOP Recordings, Sounds from Aotearoa by Che Fu