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A life long love of weaving is taking two EIT women to America

July 25, 2012

Mentor and lecturer Christina Wirihana with student Toni Sadlier prepare for their up coming trip to the United States. Photograph by Diana Dobson

A life long love of weaving shared by two women is taking them on a whirlwind tour of American universities, including meetings and workshops with key indigenous artists.

EIT Tairawhiti Toihoukura senior lecturer Christina Wirihana and Maori contemporary and visual arts degree student Toni Sadlier head to San Francisco next week on the first leg of a journey that crosses from west to east coasts.

For Wirihana, who has been weaving for more than 40 years and is the national chairperson of Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa, it is a kind of homecoming.

In 2006 she was the artist in residence at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, the second stop of the tour.

She’s hopeful of setting up more exchange initiatives between the two countries, particularly on the back of the successful Eternal Thread Exhibition that travelled the States in 2006 and 2007.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for both of us,” she said.

Wirihana is particularly pleased to be taking Sadlier with her.

“She’s a brilliant practitioner and advocate.”

For Sadlier it is a dream come true, in a field that she just adores.

“I love everything about it (weaving),” she says, “especially what it brings to me from the past. It brings all the elements from my tipuna (ancestors). It connects me with my past and is both spiritual and relaxing.”

Flax was always around her as a child, but Sadlier wasn’t really introduced to weaving until her twenties, but by then she was busy with children.

Now a 40-something-year-old grandmother, she has the time to pursue her passion.

“I had always wanted to come to Toihoukura. I had seen all the weaving people and envied them, thinking one day, it would be me!”

Sadlier is looking forward to meeting Native Americans and learning about their culture.

Their trip includes stops in San Francisco, Olympia, Oregon, Salem and New York. Wirihana will also go on to Hamburg in Germany after the American leg of the trip.