This is one of Katikati’s most ambitious and unusual art projects combining the skills of Maori flax weaving and French woven tapestry.
Sylvie Weber, who was awarded France’s most prestigious art award, spent the summer of 2001-2002 as the guest of Open-Air Art, absorbing the landscape, the culture and the spirit of Aotearoa. She then returned to France where the tapestry was designed and created.
“I imagined myself looking at the Bay of Plenty from the vantage point of a huge kauri in the era before any humans arrived,” she said. Tauranga Harbour edged with flowering pohutukawa, Bowentown Heads, Mayor Island and even Aotearoa’s long white cloud are easily recognised in the centre ground.
In the foreground Sylvie used the patterns of the paua to represent the colours and the undulations of the landscape. The top of the weaving is uniquely Sylvie’s.
“I wove this from my own personal garden, my inner self. People can interpret that part in any way they will.”
Meanwhile Katikati flax weavers, Kerewai Wanakore and Kathy Nathan, spent many months collecting, stripping and boiling flax leaves for the woven background. On Sylvie’s return to New Zealand they finished the plaited border and tassel, the two works blending perfectly in spite of being made a world apart.
The tiny kete, containing a koko feather, fragment of paua and sliver of greenstone, was their own special touch.
In 2002, Sylvie was awarded a major art title and medal “Chevalier de ‘l’ Ordre des Arts et des lettres” by the French Government. It is a civilian honour that is the equivalent to the important French military medal “The Legion d’ Honour”. The citation was awarded for Sylvie’s achievements in the promotion and dissemination of culture in France and throughout the world.