The artist selected for the 2012 Toi Sgwigwialtxw Residency in North America weaves exquisitely detailed poi, as well as bold, striking kakahu (clothing). He is also a man working in what is currently, a largely female world.
The Toi Sgwigwialtxw Residency is a biennial exchange between Creative New Zealand through Te Waka Toi, and the Longhouse Education and Cultural Centre in Washington State. Sgwigwialtxw means ‘house of welcome’ in the language of South Puget Sound Salish. Previous recipients of the residency include Dr Takirirangi Smith (2007), June Northcroft Grant (2008) and Henare and Tawera Tahuri (2010).
From next week senior weaver, carver and performer Karl Leonard (Ngati Rangiwewehi, Ngati Ngararanui, Ngati Pahipoto, Ngati Raukawa) will spend six weeks at Evergreen State College. He will collaborate with Native American and Alaska Native artists from the Pacific Northwest and be based at the College’s recently opened Northwest Native Woodcarving studio, which is also used for weaving.
Words cannot describe how excited and fortunate I feel,” says Rotorua based Karl. “I look forward to exploring any shared techniques, designs and traditions we may have with First Nations artists and breaking ground in my own work, through exposure to new indigenous ideas.”
It was Karl’s grandmother Ranginui Parewahawaha Leonard, who still wove at age 100, that inspired his passion for weaving. Karl also grew up watching his father and Uncle Pakake Leonard carve, and studied the art under another accomplished Uncle, Kaka Niao. In 1986 Karl began in Maori performing arts and is now a composer, choreographer, regional kapa leader and national judge. He is also passionate about the art of language and holds a Masters of Te Reo Maori.
In 2011 Karl became the first male elected to the committee of Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa (the national Maori weavers’ collective). “Male or female is not an issue for me. The issue is the future of weaving and its sustainability as an innovative artform and cultural icon”.
The Toi Sgwigwialtxw Residency is open to established Maori artists who have demonstrated excellence in visual arts, are culturally proficient ambassadors and able to establish networks with the First Nations peoples of North America.