Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti

Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti at FEASTA!: Pāraerae

Traditionally woven from tī kōuka leaves and harakeke, pāraerae (footwear) were common in the cold and rough terrains of Te Waipounamu and were an essential item for those moving through ngā ara tawhito (traditional travel routes) harvesting, gathering and trading seasonal kai. This project explores the people, places, seasons and resources that surround Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai.

Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti’s installation for FEASTA! comprises 169 pāraerae woven with marine cord and suspended along Te Ara Pū Hā (The Greenway).  In response to FESTA’s 2018 theme ‘Food and the city’,  Rongomaiai’s Pāraerae installation explores the histories of Ngāi Tahu in and around  Ōtautahi (Christchurch). This area was traditionally a significant mahinga kai (food-gathering) and trading place for Ngāi Tahu. The site along the Ōtākaro (Avon) River,  which is now known as Victoria Square, was a thriving trading spot before the arrival of Europeans, and continued to be so for many years after. Prior to this, it was a part of an ancient Waitaha pā called Puari.

FESTA occurs over Labour Weekend, almost 169 years to the day from the first formal statement of grievance from Ngāi Tahu to the crown,  penned 22 October 1849, by Matiaha Tiramōrehu. It has also been 21 years since the Ngāi Tahu settlement with the Crown, which redresses, amongst other things, traditional mahinga kai rights.

The rebuild has seen a new weaving of Ngāi Tahu narratives back into the fabric of the city. Rongomaiaia’s 169 pāraerae  are suspended along  Te Ara Pū Hā – a new public space intersected with laneways which reinforce the connection and traditional trails between Kaiapoi Pā and Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū (Bank Peninsula). They have been woven by the hands of multiple generations during wānanga leading up to the event – a traditional practice translated into contemporary material.  The work speaks to the people, places, seasons and resources that surround Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai and softly echos the whakatauki (proverb) Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua;  I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.


Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti’s bio

Ngāi Tahu (Ngāti Kurī, Ngāi Tūahuriri, Ngāti Waewae)
Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa (Ngāti Hinewaka)

As a visual artist, her practice is grounded in a Māori worldview supported by a framework of Māori visual culture defined by land, language, people, tikanga and whakapapa. Her work ranges from painting to installation and she will often engage with wānanga, as a space to create, share, cultivate and preserve.


Date: September 16, 2018