Auckland Art Gallery teams up with expert weavers to recreate ancient taonga

The Auckland Art Gallery, along with the help of five dedicated weavers, is recreating the only known woven Mori sail Te R, a precious 200-plus-year-old taonga that currently resides in the British Museum.
Its been crafted with the hopes it will be one of many woven sails atop waka at Waitangi, for the 200th celebration of the Treaty of Waitangi in 2040.

Over the weekend, members of the public were able to view the women at work during the Te R Ringa Raup: Weavers In Residence event.

It was something which brought Lucy Moore, the programme producer at Auckland Art Gallery, much excitement.

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It's been a real vision that me and my team have had for a long time, being able to give people the chance to experience taonga like this and this is the most magnificent example of that, she said.

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The Auckland Art Gallery hosted a weaving group dedicated to recreating the only known Maori woven sail, Te R.

The project began 25 years ago, when craftswoman Mandy Sunlight began hosting weaving lessons on P Te Aroha marae in Northlands Whirinaki.

It was her vision to recreate the famous sail, but it wasnt until she came into contact with fellow weavers Rouati Ewens and Ruth Port that the dream began to take form.

In January 2019, the three visited the British Museum to research the methods and techniques of weaving the Te R recreation.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
Waka take to the water as Waitangi celebrations begin on Friday.

Upon returning, they recruited two more members and got to work crafting the 4.2 metre woven masterpiece from scratch.

Its an honour to recreate, Ruth Port said, but its no easy feat.

Its our passion, its our dream. Mandy and I have been holding this since 2019, and its an honour to be a part of, but its very challenging at times, she said.

Ryan Anderson/Stuff
The project has been years in the making, and still has a long way to go before completion.

Every skill and technique on the sail is so complex and complicated, to even consider recreating it is such a huge project.

Its been over two years since that fateful trip across the world, the women are still hard at work, and the end is far from nigh.

We dont know how long its going to take, how long is a piece of string? Port said.

We all have day jobs, and we need to survive.

If we could work full time on the sail then that would be a totally different scenario, but we only get together five days a month.

Luckily the five have plenty of time, as the long term vision, Port said, is to see waka with Mori woven sails at Waitangi in 2040, for the 200th celebration of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Ryan Anderson/Stuff
The women described the weaving as a complex and complicated craft.

The project inspired many people who passed through the Auckland Art Gallery, Moore said.

Its such a privilege to be a part of such a significant project, and some of the feedback we were getting was amazing, she said.

Someone came up and said thank you to us the other day. People are really amazed to be able to get up close to the work, and the weavers themselves, as it is such a rare thing for people to be able to do so.


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