Since she was a teenager, her dream was to be a weaver and now Marie Clarke has found her place in the world thanks to raranga (weaving).
Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Marie says she felt burdened by the pressure to conform to society, but in recent years, that’s all changed thanks to her immersion into the te Ao Māori and the world of raranga.
“It’s given me the validation of being a Māori woman, I can be exactly who I’m meant to be,” she says.
“Being brought up in a te Ao Pākehā space, there were no choices for mātauranga Māori, there was a compulsory conformity, but I still didn’t fit in.”
Her grandmother, Matehaurangi George of Ngāti Kea Ngāti Tūara was a weaver of piupiu but she unfortunately passed when Marie was a child with no documentation or images remaining of her taonga.
Marie is now completing her first year in the Maunga Kura Toi - Bachelor of Māori Art degree at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Rotorua and says the programme has been overwhelmingly beneficial to her.
“I had to accept the fact that I was no longer a tauira anymore, I am an artist. As strange as this may seem, it was humbling and very difficult to wear the title,” she says.
She attended an exhibition of Te Wananga o Aotearoa weavers the year before, which encouraged her to enrol in the degree.
“It blew my mind. You were allowed to create whatever image you had in your mind and bring it to life. The programme has enhanced my raranga practice by time management, preparation and understanding that it’s not only starting and finishing a project, it is everything within the journey. I’ve found the Maunga Kura Toi programme to be exactly what I was looking for, the confirmation that I am an artist in raranga.”
Marie - Ngāti Kea Ngāti Tūara, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Wahiao, Ngāti Mahi, Ngāti Tūtemohuta, TE ARAWA Ngāti Hineuru, MATAATUA – says the course has shown her the value of learning the skills of our ancestors. Mahi Toi is the connection to our atua Māori which is beneficial to whānau, hapū and iwi.
“The difference it’s made in my life is huge. I’m a grandmother, a mother, an aunty and so much more. This has given me the determination to create a legacy of weaving to empower my people,” she says.
Marie is the 2020 recipient of the Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa Memorial Scholarship from the AST Scholarship Trust and now has her sights firmly set on the future.
“What I’d love to achieve in the future is to make a kākahu collection for my whānau. To encourage all the creators in my hapū and iwi to wear my glasses and see my world, to see my love of Te Whare Pora, Ngā taonga o Hine-te-Iwaiwa.”
An aspiration close to her heart is kākahutia tōu whānau ki te mana o Hine-te-iwaiwa, to have every Māori home design their own kākahu or korowai. “I hugely recommend this programme to weavers on their raranga journey. We have a strong support network in student services and tutors who are specialists in their field. Allow them to teach you and you will succeed.”