These magnificent kakahu (cloaks) worn proudly by the Gaskell family members as part of the
Matariki Weaving Hui on Saturday, were exhibited on the catwalk along with many other proud
bearers of kakahu as part of the noon time fashion show. However it was more like an inspiring
regal, royal procession than a fashion show. Each kakahu has been traditionally and intricately
woven by hand with a variety of materials but mostly exquisite single feathers. Many took two
years of work which is the period of time the local weavers group, Te Roopu Whatu Kakahu, led
by Deborah Philips, has been going.
Reverence for family history, a love of the art of weaving in Maori culture, a belief in community, and a very high level of skill and talent imbued the Matariki Weaving Hui held last Saturday at Whiti Cross WOD Gym in Lee Street, Whitianga, hosted by Te Roopu Whatu Kakahu (local weaving group). This cultural event to mark Matariki, attracted over 100 visitors between 9:00am
to 3:00pm and a good crowd gathered for the Kakahu Catwalk at noon. It was essentially an exhibition and showcase of the work of those who are members of the local weaving group and an opportunity to invite others who may want to learn weaving. Sandy Gaskell is one of the members of the local weaving group, Te Roopu Whatu Kakahu, led and taught by Deborah Phillips.
Over 10,500 feathers and 160,000 whatu (stitches) have been woven into this kakahu.
Sandy wants her children and grandchildren to come to know their whakapapa, their
family history, and to understand the heritage they can take into their future.
She didn’t know her own history growing up. Sadly her Dad, Denny Henson, died too
early in a one-punch fight but a week before, he had handed Sandy a piece of paper on
which was written her whakapapa - her Maori family history. “Dad had never talked about
that side of his life. Apart from having a hangi in the back yard, I just didn’t think about who
I had come from. I was twenty when he died, but then I began a long journey of 30 years to know myself.
The weaving has completed something in me - the something that I knew was missing. It
has given me much more than a skill. On the reverse side of this cloak, I have stitched the
names of 27 generations of Te Puna, not to be hidden but to remain close. Sometimes when
I look at these kakahu (cloaks) and the ideas incorporated in the weave and colours, I think to myself, ‘Wow! I have got that in me!’” Jo Kaaho, also a member of the Te Roopu Whatu Kakahu, displayed a photograph of her great grandmother, Te Whareti, with her beautiful weaving. The shells, individually stitched to the weave, and adorning the joining of cloth and feathers on her kakahu, were gathered from many visits to the beach with her grandchildren always collecting one or two that seemed right for the cloak.
Julie Burns-Evans was like a welcome host sitting at the table weaving towards the front of the premises. People could touch and see the colourful flax and fibre from which she was making the kete. “There was a group of friends studying weaving and they invited me to join them. That was in 2016. I taught myself to make a kakahu. I journaled it. Making it from fabric and very small feathers was a challenge. I feel very proud of what I can do. All my family are artists working in different media.” Deborah Phillips is a greatly loved kaiako (teacher) and friend of all in the weavers' group who meet weekly at the Social Services Centre in Cook Drive and Bess Kingi is a constant encourager and presence at the group. The kakahu that she has made as a member of the weavers' group is a gift to the community to be worn by those leading at a special community celebration, milestone or act of remembrance. Bess had made this for others long before she was elected as a member of the Community Board.
The use of the premises of Whiti Cross WOD Gym was kindly donated by the owners for the use of the weavers and visitors.
Caption: Photo courtesy of Karen Moffatt-McLeod, APSNZ. www.karenmcleodphotography.com.
Sandy Gaskell (back left), is the weaver of the kakahu, worn by members of her family - granddaughter, Danii Cullen (left), wearing "Ki Te Mahara O Mere", son Daniel, wearing "Ngā Tama
O Te Ngahere", and his daughter (Sandy's grand daughter) Ellie Gaskell, wearing "Te Manu Iti," and
granddaughter Dior Cullen (right), wearing "He Kākahu Mō Ngā Tīmatanga Hau."