Embracing Aronui Rotorua's Indigenous Arts Festival

Video photo caption: (Left - Right) Rosie Belvie, Te Ririu Williams, Aronui Arts Festival director, Cian Elyse White, and Matiu Hamuera.

Nineteen-year-old Te Ririu Williams has used her love of weaving muka to help capture the stunning official imagery of the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival.

Of Te Arawa and Te Rarawa descent, Williams created the kākahu (items) worn by her brother, Matiu Hamuera, and Rosie Te Rauawhea Belvie in the photoshoot, depicting the energy of Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) and Ranginui (Sky Father). Whakarewarewa’s Pohutu Geyser features as an ethereal backdrop.

Williams says the pākē (cape) worn by Belvie, and maro (short kilt) attached by a tātua (belt) laced with a tāniko (finger woven embroidery) rim represents the goddess of the house of weaving, Hine-te-iwaiwa. She presented the piece at last year’s Tiki Āhua, an annual fashion event in Rotorua.

“Hine-te-iwaiwa is also the goddess of childbirth and the goddess of the pā harakeke (flax) and the twinkling stars,” says Williams. “When I showcased Hine-te-iwaiwa on stage at Tiki Āhua, it was like the first presentation of my work. A birth of my mahi (work), which was a very special moment because that was my starting point.

“The tāniko band, which is a poutama (motif), embodies Papatūānuku and her eldest son Tane Māhuta. It was my way of intertwining all the gods. Hine-te-iwaiwa is one god who connects them all. I think Hine-te-iwaiwa is incorporated into the whole kaupapa of Aronui.”

Her brother Matiu wears a kākahu piu, which is made from piupiu (flax) strands similar to a pākē woven by the siblings’ aunty, Riria McDonald. She is also Williams’ tutor at Te Rito, where she currently studies raranga (weaving), and the person who started her on her raranga and the arts journey. Williams says she chose greens for the maro because she loves the natural colour of green – and it is also her favourite colour.

Williams has a natural confidence when sizing up a design through her artistic lens but is whakamā (shy) to talk about herself. However, she becomes increasingly animated when discussing her art. She has been weaving since she was 13, and it was her brother who asked her to help with the visual arts aspect of the Aronui photoshoot.

“I didn’t realise how big this was. I’m blown away and very honoured to be part of it,” she says. “I hope it promotes our Māori culture as much as it can to the wider world and enables us to embrace our culture and encourages more Māori to test their hand at the arts. I hope it catches the eyes of those who are interested and not too sure on what they want to do. If they don’t know what to do when they leave school – the arts will be there.”

She says raranga is a dying art which needs to be revived.

“And not just raranga – te Reo Māori and all kaupapa Māori need to be embraced. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. I’m still on that journey and this is really pulling me out of my comfort zone. But it’s about finding out who I am as a person, what my skills are as an individual, and helps to promote it to other rangatahi (young people) who are still finding their way.”

Te Ririu Williams says it is important to embrace your identity and encourages other rangatahi to harness their skills to help them discover what they want to do in future.

Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival features visual arts, theatre, music, dance and film. The festival runs from 1 - 30 September.

Photo gallery

Photos of some of Te Ririu Williams mahi

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