Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa is a New Zealand-based female arts collective from Niutao Island, Tuvalu.
The group was formed in 2012 and currently numbers around 100 women, over a wide span of ages. Many of Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa’s members are based in Auckland; with a core group of elder members gathering every Thursday to make together, at the Pacifica Arts Centre, at Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson. As a group, the women practice a range of Tuvalu art-forms, including kolose (Tuvalu crochet), and the weaving of usable objects such as fans, baskets and trays.
Curated by Malama T-Pole, To Weave Again has seen the collective return to Tuvalu mat weaving, using fibre from pandanus leaves.
As the palm-like pandanus tree does not grow in Aotearoa, pufasa (reams) of leaves have been harvested by family members on Niutao, Tuvalu, and shipped to New Zealand to resource this project. For some members, this has been a return to pandanus weaving after a break of decades, with many of the group migrating from Niutao in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Members of Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa divided themselves into suburbs to produce these mats, with one group working in Massey, and another in Ranui (these Western suburbs are home to a large portion of Auckland’s Tuvaluan community, with many families based in this area).
The collective are now working to continue the art-form, using the customary bark and roots to dye fibre prior to weaving. A red colour is created using the root of the nonu tree, while the bark of the togo tree is scraped to produce the black. To Weave Again demonstrates the Niutao approach to pandanus weaving – incorporating motifs of dyed fibre into the main body of weaving – with coloured, decorative elements seamlessly woven in as the entire mat progresses. On other atolls, it is common to complete a plain mat, before weaving coloured motifs into the finished article.
Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa is committed to teaching young women from their community to weave – ensuring the tactile knowledge may be passed on. To Weave Again marks the beginning of an ongoing transmission of practice between locale and generations. The travelling pandanus leaves have made their own journey of migration, bringing with them an opportunity for Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa to re-engage with an integral part of Tuvalu art-making.
Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa is currently working with the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange in London, with Tuvalu textiles finding a place in ethical and sustainable fashion. A large body of kolose work from the collective has been exhibited in the toured exhibition Kolose: The Art of Tuvalu Crochet, at Māngere Arts Centre Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, 2014, Lake House Arts Centre, 2014, and Pātaka Art & Museum, 2017. The women are currently undertaking a project where they are learning how to make Tuvalu baskets and trays. Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa received funding support from Creative New Zealand, to assist in the preparation and transport of the pandanus leaves.