At the end of June 2019, our ESOL Intensive Palmerston North class participated in a tukutuku workshop organised by City Library Palmerston North and led by Kaiako Christina Winitana.
To kick off, Kaiako Christina gave a short talk about how important the tukutuku panel has always been in a culture that did not have a written language to rely on to pass on memories and stories. She talked about the three different patterns that the learners were going to weave, nihoniho, poutama, and purapurawhetu. Poutama represents the learning steps upwards based on the journey of Tane to find the kete of knowledge. Nihoniho symbolises a pile of teeth in the shape of a mountain. Purapurawhetu is a star pattern. Traditionally the upright lines are made of toetoe stalks and the horizontals are made from raupo (bulrush).
Making a tukutuku is about working with a partner to control both sides of the weaving. The first step to making a simple tukutuku is to make the ‘canvas’ by filling a wooden frame with vertical whole round sticks which make up the back of the weaving. Next the horizontal half-rounds are added. Finally the back and front are woven together. Now it is ready to have the design woven onto it. Kaiako Christina and Whaea Laureen guided everyone through this process.
After setting up the canvas, learners weaved their patterns, threading their coloured yarn backwards and forwards, over and across and down, working with their partner and counting stitches carefully. Gradually the images of mountains and learning steps took shape. In the final session, stars began to appear on each canvas.
The task of learning to make a tukutuku was very absorbing and also proved to be quite difficult, and took longer than initially anticipated. For this reason, the class returned to the library workshop for two additional mornings to finish their work.
During the sessions, English language came alive, and expressions such work as a pair, front of frame, back of frame, vertical, horizontal, clips, straighten, loose, tight, up and across, across and down, tie your ends, were heard over and over again.
Maori language and concepts also came alive. The words Whaea and kaiako were used respectfully to address the teachers. Plant names of toetoe, raupo, pingao, and toetoe were discussed, and shapes of maunga, purapurawhetu, poutama and nihoniho were brought to reality on the canvases. Other words discussed were wharenui, kowhaiwhai, mangapori, kaimoana, tumatakahehe, and noho.
There were a lot of practical skills to master, and everyone in the class worked hard and produced something beautiful, and the outputs will be displayed at English Language Partners office. A lot of useful language was practised, but the most useful phrases were ‘Excuse me, kaiako/whaea, can you please help me?’ and ‘Is this right?’ and ’I will show you’ and of course ‘Where are the toilets, please?’
Kia pai tou tatou Matariki! Happy Matariki everyone!
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