Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meet the People - 15

Lillian Hetet-Owen. April 2009 Ajr
Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – Lillian Hetet-Owen (Te Ati Awa/Hapu:Hamua; Ngati Maniapoto; Ngati Tuwharetoa), of Lower Hutt, needs little introduction. She comes from a highly regarded family that has given us a legacy of five generations of creativity. Lillian manages the Maori Treasures Complex at Waiwhetu, in Lower Hutt, which was set up by her parents, Master Carver Rangi Hetet and his wife, internationally regarded weaver, Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, who passed away in 2006. Rangi Hetet is the last surviving member of a special group of carvers known as Konae Aronui; and the late Erenora, was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in 2002 for services to weaving. Erenora had learned the finely detailed craft of feather korowai (cloak) weaving, from her mother-in-law, Rangimarie Hetet. Today, several members of the extended family all participate in the making of traditional Maori arts and crafts. According to Lillian, the family aim – and the aim of the Maori Treasures Complex – is to develop, maintain and promote the Maori art traditions that they have inherited from their ancestors. “We aim to produce and develop cultural products that demonstrate the essence and spirit of Maori in our region,” she says. “My mother always wanted her pupils to teach at least one other person so we could keep traditions alive. It has been a privilege growing up here and it is a privilege to be able to share it with new students and national and international visitors,” say Lillian.
"Tu Tangata" A feathered Korowai by Erenora Puketapu-Hetet - a patchwork representing all iwi of NZ. Ajr
The making of a feather bag using the Whatu technique. Ajr
The day I visited Maori Treasures to meet Lillian, she was busy being interviewed for a television documentary but she still made time to sit with me and talk about the rich legacy her family is responsible for. We sat in the gallery – filled with exciting works both traditional and contemporary; and she took me through the carving and weaving studios to look at some of the exquisite cloaks that her mother made. Lillian is also an owner of the two Koha shops in Lower Hutt; and she oversees students attending the complex’s weaving and carving studios, which are linked to the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

'Te Maori' The Waiwhetu Cultural Centre designed by Athfield Architects, Wellington. Ajr
Waiwhetu Marae, Lower Hutt. April 2009. Ajr
The Maori Treasures Complex is located in a converted house that sits among 60 others in the Maori settlement that snuggles in around Waiwhetu Marae, the Cultural Centre, radio station, a Kohanga Reo and the offices of Te Runanga nui o Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o te Ika a Maui. The Waiwhetu area has been settled by Te Ati Awa people since the 1830s. The Waiwhetu Marae was built in 1960 and continues to be the focal point of community activity.

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