Weaving Residency

Led by master-weaver and Creative New Zealand Senior Pacific Artist award-winner Matafetu Smith, a collective of Niuean women weavers created hats, mats, and baskets as part of the Pacific Heritage Art Residencies series at our Fale Pasifika.

Baskets, hats, tau lili and table settings were among the crafts created by the weavers during their residency. Their works are held on permanent display throughout the University, some of which can be viewed below.

Woven hat

The group of both expert craftswomen worked at our Fale Pasifika to lalaga and tia using both traditional and contemporary materials. Most of the women hailed from the northern villages of Mutalau and Toi villages, an area of Niue in which weaving is a respected activity of both men and women.

They noted that weaving in New Zealand poses greater challenges than in Niue. Raw materials, such as pandanus leaves and the mid-rib of the coconut leaf, are easily and freely accessible on island; whereas these materials must be imported to New Zealand or substituted by materials such as raffia. Also, differences in humidity and temperature require materials to be continually dampened.

Spokesperson for the group Ms Antoinette Vaha said: “Although there are 20,000 Niueans in New Zealand and only 1600 living on the island, New Zealand-based Niueans cannot rely on those remaining on Niue to keep traditions alive. Like Niuean language, our skill of traditional weaving is diminishing and is in danger of being lost so we are very honoured to be part of this programme, to work in the beautiful Fale Pasifika and to share this aspect of our Pacific culture.

Red and black basket

“Niuean people who are interested in learning traditional craft only have to ask,” says Antoinette. “Many elderly family members will have the skill and would be delighted to teach the younger generation. This process of transmission, from one generation to another, is a crucial part of keeping our knowledge.”