New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
WEAVING THROUGH LIFE
VERANOA HETET (52) CREATES INTRICATE WORK THAT GRACES SHOULDERS AND WALLS WORLDWIDE
Veranoa’s intricate work
Ihave to weave every day or it feels like my day is incomplete, that something is missing, like a meal. It is very peaceful, therapeutic and calming.
This is what I was meant to be, it is all
I love, all I want to do.
Weaving isn’t just a Sunday craft.
It is not an evening pastime.
For many people, especially me, it is such an absolute part of my life that without it, I am lost.
I have been weaving since I was about 12 or 13. My earliest memories are being surrounded by creativity in the home. My mother, Erenora PuketapuHetet, was a renowned weaver, and I remember her preparing flax and weaving.
My father, Rangi Hetet, would be sketching in a notebook or carving in the garage. He is the last-surviving master carver of his fraternity. We were surrounded by art forms.
I have two older sisters. One is a weaver and the other is a performing artist – she has a wonderful voice. My brother is a graphic designer.
We moved around a lot, growing up. In the early ‘70s, my father’s brother and his wife were killed on the Desert Road, and they left five children. We packed up our home in Lower Hutt and moved to Turangi to look after the family – my younger brother is actually my cousin, he was only 10 years old at the time.
Then we moved to Rotorua
because my dad went to be the tutor at the Maˉori Arts and Crafts Institute – now called Te Puia. My mother worked there as a weaving teacher. We later moved back to Lower Hutt and I have been here ever since.
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I studied Maˉori and art, which I failed. My father, who is 82, recently told me he didn’t want me to be a weaver. He didn’t want me to struggle like he and my late mum have over the years.
When you belong to a family of artists, this becomes such an integral part of your life. It really is like breathing. My husband, Sam Hauwaho, is a carver.
Every part of our life and the lives of our children is filled with creativity. We have four sons aged between 33 and
19, and a 17-year-old daughter.
They are all very creative and artistic. My 19-year-old just designed a moko for his sister, which she had applied in March. It’s absolutely beautiful. She said, ‘Whatever you draw,
I will have put on.’ She didn’t see the design until we went to the tattoo artist.
My eldest sons are avid golfers. We home-schooled my eldest so he could play golf full-time. Golf is a big thing in our household. So I had to speak out when the winner of the New Zealand Golf Open, Zach Murray, was presented with a cloak I knew was fake. We know what that man went through to be the winner – he would have worked hard. To throw something on him that we now know was worth only $280 is an insult to his hard work.
Crafting a cloak is an art form that all New Zealanders can be proud of. There are no other cultures that create cloaks that are off-the-loom – it’s all hand-woven, every little stitch.
I harvest the flax myself. As I am cutting it, I think about the person I am weaving for or what I am going to weave. Although a cloak takes me nine months to make, it could possibly be here in 300 or 400 years’ time. What is nine months of my life? Not much at all.
Te Papa has one of my cloaks in its collection. Dame Patsy Reddy wore it at her swearing-in ceremony as Governor-General. Another one of mine was commissioned by Kiwibank for the New Zealander of the Year award, so Mike King has that at the moment.
I have tukutuku panels that I wove with my sister at the Maritime Museum, the National Library, the State Services Commission and the select committee room at Parliament.
My sister and I started the Hetet School of Maˉori Art. My dad taught me koˉwhaiwhai painting when I was a young girl. I teach that and also how to weave, through online videos. It’s the knowledge I think should be available to anyone – how to gather the flax, how to weave a simple little basket. My students are from Paris, the UK, New
York, Hawaii and Australia.
Weaving has been part of my family’s life for seven generations. My grandmother made a cloak that Kiri Te Kanawa wore before she left for London.
When my mokopuna was six months old, she was fascinated by what I was doing, and I would give her a bit of the fibre and she would play with it in her little chubby hands for the longest time. I am hoping that, with my mokopuna, this legacy and dedication to the arts continues.
But I have told my children that if they are ever in need of money, they are to sell their cloak. I would rather they have a home than keep it and have nothing. You can be precious about things, but you must also be practical.”