Weaving with purpose

Artist Wini Solomon. Photo: Ari Edgecombe

COINCIDING with this year’s Southland Heritage Month, senior artist and kaiwhatu (weaver) Wini Solomon’s exhibition Te Rito is on display on Invercargill.

The Senior Artist Programme was an annual Miharo initiative which celebrated a local senior artist, their body of work and their creative contribution to the community and beyond, programme development manager Tania Carran said.

“The team at Miharo works alongside each artist to talk about a programme which encompassed what was important to them.

“Whether it’s an exhibition of their work, creative workshops or an opportunity to spend time and reflect with those who have been an integral part of their journey.”

There would also be opportunities for visitors to not only view the exhibition, but to also have a chat with Solomon and have a go at working with harakeke (flax).

“School bookings were also welcome.”

Te Rito the exhibition
Te Rito has brought together works by Riverton kaiwhatu (weaver) Winifred Solomon.

Every piece on display represents many hours of work: growing and harvesting the harakeke, splitting the rau (leaf), softening each strip, dying them, and then bringing the pieces together.

The process was inherently an art of the hands, one of Solomon’s former students Kimberley Stephenson said.

“The best way to appreciate and understand raranga (weaving) was by undertaking the process oneself.”

For more than 40 years, the act of placing harakeke in the hands of others has been fundamental to Solomon’s artistic practice.

Ever since she began weaving at Whaiora Marae in Otara in the late 1970s, she had supported others to learn.

The taonga (treasures) on display represented only a tiny fraction of those brought into existence as a result of her duel passions for raranga and sharing her knowledge about it, Stephenson said.

“During my time as a student of Wini’s at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, I had the opportunity to see her skills as a kaiwhatu in action.

“But what struck me even more about her was her ability to bring people together and forge connections between them,” she said.

“While her hands were busy with harakeke, the lives of the individuals around her were woven together as her infectious enthusiasm spread and korero (conversation) of all kinds began to flow.”

The learning environment Solomon created was one in which her tauira (students) were encouraged to push their own creative boundaries as they developed confidence with each technique, but also to support those around them through the sharing of skills and ideas, Stephenson said.

“I left each wananga with callouses on my hands and feeling enriched by the time shared with those on the journey with me.

“In addition to the exceptional creative legacy that Wini has forged with harakeke, she has contributed a great deal to fostering a sense of community in Murihiku (Southland).

“A connectivity cultivated not only by bringing people together around a shared kaupapa (purpose), but also a shared connection to the whenua (land) that provides the raw materials and the tupuna (ancestors) whose knowledge we draw on each time we pick up our raranga.

It was thanks to educators like Wini that the art of raranga continued to flourish and grow, and be passed on to future generations with the help of many hands, Stephenson said.

  • Senior Artist Wini Solomon Exhibition, Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am-2pm, Miharo, 28 Don St, Invercargill. Weaving confirmed via the Miharo Murihiku Facebook page. Group and school inquiries to tania@miharo.org.
  • Additional information Kimberley Stephenson