Last night Pūaha Te Tai Whānau hosted a pōwhiri and wānanga at Nayland College to welcome Master Weaver Karl Leonard, who has handcrafted a set of traditional piupiu for the Pūaha Te Tai Kapa Haka Rōpu to wear in upcoming competitions.
The story all starts with Nayland College’s Pūaha Te Tai Kapa Haka Rōpu performing exceptionally well in the Kapa Haka regional competition last year. The rōpu won first place in the Haka, Moeteatea, Tira and Kaita Tane sections as well as second place in the Poi, Aringa and Kaita Wahine sections.
Being so proud of their results, it was time to ensure their uniforms reflected their mana and status as a Kapa Haka rōpu to be taken seriously. Nayland College, the Board of Trustees, Pūaha Te Tai Whānau and their Runanga Mātua, have worked collaboratively over the past few months to obtain traditionally made piupiu for Pūaha Te Tai Kapa Haka Rōpu to wear in future competitions.
The story goes that Master Weaver Karl Leonard, who is highly sought after for his time and talent, had begun to create a set of piupiu when the group he was working for pulled out of the contract. He put the word out on Facebook to see who might be interested in purchasing the set. Nayland College parent Jenny Reneti Bryers, happened to be online at the time and was the first to respond to the post. Given that Matua Leonard was absolutely inundated with requests to purchase the piupiu, Nayland College was incredibly fortunate that Mrs Reneti was first in line and the school, whānau and community rallied around to raise funds to secure the precious taonga.
Last night, the Pūaha Te Tai Whānau hosted a pōwhiri to welcome both Master Weaver Karl Leonard and the handcrafted piupiu to Nayland College. Matua Karl then held a wānanga to discuss:
- the history of weaving
- the process of making traditional piupiu
- how to wear them properly
- how to preserve them
Holding a wānanga to share this information is a key part of the process for Matua Karl as he is keen to share the knowledge around piupiu making that he has inherited from his ancestors. Each individual piupiu takes around 50 hours to make so when making a set of 40, the hours are extensive. While the cost of the piupiu can seem high, working out the calculations on an hourly rate, most weavers only make a bare minimum to survive on from that work alone. However the privilege of having the knowledge passed down to him from his whakapapa in Rotorua and all his ancestors on both sides, drives Karl to continue weaving and passing on the knowledge to future generations. He is one of only a very few males that are involved in weaving; it is usually a female dominated space so he considers it quite a special place to be.
One of Nayland College’s Pūaha Te Tai Whānau class tutor teachers, Matua Bruno Watkins, shared his thoughts about the evening:
“Last night was amazing. We had a good turn out from students and whānau, a good turn out from the community, lots of various important people from around Whakatu and even wider, some from Motueka. There was really strong whaikōrero from some of our parents that came to support and spoke on behalf of the kura really well.”
“It was just really nice to have Māori people in the kura role modeling to our Māori students how Māori processes work and how we do things. The kids did us really proud in terms of how they did their pōwhiri and just supported getting the food ready and the packing up and the looking after the manuhiri (visitors), all those things that Māori kids do when they need to.”
“Matua Karl was amazing, his wife and the people who came to support him. He was a great speaker [and] orator. [He was] funny, had the kids engaged, really connected with everybody and just made the whole wānanga really interesting.”
“For me, getting these piupiu from such a special person, a famous person, who really thinks about the importance of piupiu, getting them from him was just kind of a symbol for me of how far the school has come in recent years around Te Ao Māori.”
Pūaha Te Tai Kapa Haka Rōpu are practicing weekly for their next major competition coming up in August this year. It will be their first opportunity to wear the beautiful piupiu, representing Nayland College, their whānau and their iwi with pride.
About Karl Leonard
Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard (b 1964) is a carver and weaver of Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa and Ngati Raukawa descent. He was the first man elected to the committee of the prestigious National Māori Weaver’s Collective, Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa.
To learn more about Karl Leonard and his successes click here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Leonard
For a link to his kōrero about his life as a male weaver and guide at Te Puia on Waka Huia click here: https://youtu.be/405e-7P2n5g
By Sarah Luton