31 Jul 2009

Death of Diggeress Te Kanawa, mother of weaving renaissance

9:26 pm on 31 July 2009

Arts Minister Christopher Finlayson has paid tribute to renowned weaver Diggeress Te Kanawa, who has died at the age of 89.

Mrs Te Kanawa was an expert in all facets of weaving. She won international acclaim for her skill in creating wharariki (mats) and korowai (cloaks) out of natural materials such as flax fibre and feathers, and was commissioned to make royal gifts.

Her dedication to Maori fibre art led to the publication in 1992 of Weaving a Kakahu, the formal expression of a life committed to weaving.

"She provided inspiration for many weavers and contemporary artists by sharing her knowledge," Mr Finlayson said, "and was instrumental in the renaissance of this art form."

Named in honour of World War I diggers

Born in Te Kuiti in 1920 of Ngati Maniapoto and Ngati Kinohaku descent, Diggeress Rangitutahi Te Kanawa was named in honour of the World War 1 troops known as diggers.

Her mother was the renowned Dame Rangimarie Hetet, who passed her knowledge on to her daughter, and she took up weaving at an early age. Her family was instrumental in the resurgence of Maori weaving traditions during the 1950s.

Later, she was instrumental in founding Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa, the National Maori Weavers Collective of New Zealand.

She married Tana Te Kanawa when she was 20 and they raised 12 children. Her own family is involved in the craft of weaving.