For Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, weaving was a living, changing art. She was as committed to innovation as she was to custom, and was passionate about passing on her knowledge.
Generations of weavers
Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, of the iwi (tribe) Te Āti Awa, learned cloak-weaving from renowned weaver Rangimārie Hetet. Her husband, master carver Rangi Hetet, is a grandson to Rangimārie and a nephew to Diggeress Te Kanawa.
Erenora passed on her knowledge with equal generosity to her children - two are weavers, and all four are involved in the arts - and to people outside her family. Over the years, she became skilled in many art forms, but cloak-making was always her preference.
Custom and innovation
Erenora was famous for her constant innovation. She included materials such as wire and pāua (abalone) shell in her weaving, and experimented with new techniques.
Like many weavers who learned from the Hetet family, Erenora incorporated the māwhitiwhiti (cross-over pattern) into her work. This pattern may have evolved from European needlework, or weavers may have adapted it from customary tukutuku (woven wall panels).
Erenora was also known for her commitment to customary practice. She saw custom as dynamic, not static and in need of preservation. For her, custom and innovation walked hand in hand.
Erenora believed that cloaks, in museums and elsewhere, should have an ongoing life rather than be stored away to prevent damage. She introduced the idea that Te Papa should select contemporary kākahu (cloaks) to be worn on ceremonial occasions.
Since then, important visitors who have been welcomed to Te Papa have worn a kahu kiwi (kiwi-feather cloak) that Erenora made in 1996. This adds to the ongoing history and significance of the cloak.
National influence and awards
Erenora's influence on the revitalisation of weaving was widespread. She served on national arts organisations and, in 2002, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to weaving.