Anaheke Metua – Weaving Memories, Weaving the Future

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Photos by Charles Zuber

 

Anaheke and I sat down for a chat in between weaving workshops and she told me a bit about her practice and how she’d come to be a weaver. “I’ve been weaving with natural fibres since I was seven years old. My first fibres were hara keke – a New Zealand flax. That first memory only came back after I started weaving again with banana fibre in 2005.  I’ve always been a craftsperson, always used my hands doing crochery, drawing, always been a drawer – from my imagination. I’ve always been resourceful – I like to make craft from anything, to invent things that make life more convenient, and I like learning to make something out of nothing.

“Patterns really drew me as a kid. My first drawings were patterns…. all built from elements of my imagination, and eventually I realized I had been drawing cultural patterns of my people.

“When I came to Australia when I was ten years old, I didn’t yet understand how strong the influence of Nature had been in my life.  I guess I really have been weaving for a long time – first in drawings and then actually weaving with fibre. – In fact, now that I think about it, I realize that I’ve always been weaving because my earliest art had been drawing patterns form my imagination and in a profound sense this was actually weaving.

“All of my memories of New Zealand and childhood are based in Nature – playing in nature and living in Nature. When I was a kid, we would go camping as a family for six weeks at one campground and live out of the same tent. My Dad was a fisherman and we lived from the sea – he caught all the food we needed. I feel very gifted to have been a healthy kid, and to have played and learned in Nature, and to have had the security of a family and sense of family – and also to be here, (at Lines) and to be sitting in circle and weaving with family, here too.

“Besides going to festivals and teaching workshops, I have also been invited to work with some indigenous communities on the east coast, to work with the revival of their traditional craft – mostly natural fibre weaving. I’ve also been invited to support workshops that re-teach indigenous people individually.

“Last year was a real breakthrough year for me. I feel like I have been working for some time to have the sort of thing happen that occurred last year at Lines – to have landed here in this time and place, and this new stage of my work was ready to be born – it lifted my whole perspective on what I was doing as an artist – I realized ‘this is really what I’m here for’.

“Last year at Lines we were able to re-introduce – through a series of connections – a traditional weave used by Quandamooka women that had been lost. Kate and Stuart Lloyd are master weavers – Okka Wikka is their cultural community arts organization in FNQ. Stuart found the old Minjerribah weaving pattern in actual baskets at the Queensland Museum and in photos here at the Dunwich Museum.  He came here to research the pattern because, originally, Aunty Marg Iselin had remembered her granny weaving (here on Stradbroke) and that memory sparked the whole project to re-learn.  And then, Lines invited me to coordinate a weaving program in conjunction with the Quandamooka weavers’ craft revival project, which meant getting together with Aunty Evy Parkin and Mandy Blivet and other local women, going out and harvesting local fibres, and relearning how to prepare them, and proper usage of the fibres and string making.  So then we as a group provided the community the opportunity to be part of this process and to share the story of coming back to country and re-learning a tradition that came from here.

“Then, early this year I was invited to be a part of a craft revival in Maleny that took place in February and culminated in workshops at Floating Lands Festival in Noosa. We re-taught cultural stories because many of the indigenous women who are putting their hand up to learn – they are new to the stories, and they are not quite ready to go out into the community and teach. So we were teaching simple string making – string bag making – and there were stories that went along with that – and we were teaching ways to identify fibres as indigenous native or non-native flora – guided by myself and a custodian from the Sunshine Coast.”

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