Festival ‘out of this world’

Indigenous arts brings creative minds together

Roimata Mihinui Kāhu ki Rotorua






Weaver Ataraiti Waretini is still buzzing over her participation at the World Indigenous Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada. “The experience was out of this world. “I, as a Māori, experienced a safe space overseas where indigeneity was celebrated and indigenous excellence was seen in every part of the festival. “All people from organisers to designers, panelists and models were there to uplift every indigenous person.” Ataraiti, (Tuhourangi-ngati Wahiao, Tainui, Mataatua) who learned to weave from her mother Maria, was at the festival hosted by First Nations people earlier this month. It was a poignant time for her because Hemi, a younger brother of her late father Kuru Waretini, passed away just as she left our shores. She thanks singer Maisey Rika for allowing the use of the song Pohutukawa for her presentation. “One of the elements that brought our show together nicely was the waiata Pohutukawa. “It acknowledges one of the stars of Matariki that signals our Māori new year. “Pohutukawa is the star that helps us remember those who have passed away. I wanted a way to remember those who have passed throughout the show and so grateful to have it through this song.” The festival brought together creative iwi taketake from all around the world. Ataraiti spent a number of years in the UK but her time in Toronto introduced her to even more people from different walks of life. Ataraiti, who owns and operates Maru Creations, said their designs were received well from everyone. “That ranged from the indigenous models wanting to know the story behind each piece to present them with justice on the stage, other designers wanting to have conversations and IFAF22 founders and chairman giving beautiful congratulations.” Engaging with artists and designers using traditional practices was a bonus for her. “I’ve met other designers who are so talented from the processes they use to create their taonga to the meaning behind each piece. “The processes are similar, you don’t take more from the whenua than you need, You karakia and you try not to waste anything. “Recently I was traded beaver teeth earrings for one of my necklaces. Some of these people I will be friends with for life.” Ataraiti found the festival inspirational and already has plans for future developments. “I’ve learned a lot from this festival and have ideas of wanting to uplift and celebrate indigenous cultures in Aotearoa. “I’m so grateful to my whānau and friends for all their help and support to get here for the festival in person, without them, it wouldn’t be possible.” For the festival, entrants were asked to produce a film to highlight their work. Three pieces, Whanaungatanga, Tarawera and Hinemihi, were modeled by whanau members and part of the film was shot at Hinemihi meeting house at Whaka. “All three are significant journeys of some things we carry as Māori and our resilience during these times.”