On a cold June evening, I caught a sunset ferry from Circular Quay to Parramatta in Sydney to the opening of PARRAMATARIKI – Stories from Across the Sea, a flax weaving installation at the Parramatta Artists Studios.
From making hats to making mats.
Two weaving artists, Maureen Lander and Keren Ruki had been commissioned by the Parramatta Council to conduct community weaving workshops with the wider Parramatta community, to share knowledge and stories about mats and mat making techniques. I thought I could learn a thing or two to take back to my Sydney hat making studio.
June heralds the rise of the Pleiades cluster of stars, known in Maori culture as Matariki. It marks the beginning of the New Year in the southern hemisphere.
Parramatariki (Shining eyes of god) star theme was used in many of the weaving installations.
FIBRE WEAVING has always been a very strong tradition in Pacific cultures and New Zealand Flax is a versatile fibre for splitting and making into mats, ropes , baskets and sometimes hats.
The young fronds, cut from the heart of the plant are split into strips ready for weaving. Fine or coarse weave strips are woven with cross threads from left to right to create a variety of utility objects.
The May community workshops conducted by the artists allowed many participants to learn the weaving techniques, to sit and share memories of hand working skills.
I was particularly moved by the strong sense of family, community spirit and shared traditional knowledge at this event . The collective act of sitting and hand weaving meshed a range of a people together.
The exhibition runs from June 4th to 3rd September at Parramatta Artists Studios, 45 Hunter St Parramatta NSW 2150. Images courtesy of Maureen Lander