May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

A digital korero with Wiremu Barriball (creator/designer for Tu Ake)

2 min read

After realising that Tu Ake’s beautifully innovative kicks (tennis shoes) and sunnies (sunglasses) were finally on the shores of Aotearoa we decided to tap over a few questions to Wiremu in an attempt to flesh out what inspired him to move in this direction (i.e. mixing and melding traditional designs and merging them with contemporary materials). asked Wiremu Barriball, creator and designer for Tu Ake, the simple (yet at equal times complex) question, “why?”

WiremuBFWell, there are a few reasons/motivators. First and foremost… I love and am very passionate about Maori art.

Wiremu has been developing his own style of Maori art since primary school and then later in his teens began strongly focusing on his own sense and understanding of style, he’s been putting his style of Maori design on “things” for about 8 years.

During this time Wiremu too, began asking himself the same question… why? What he realised is that upon looking at how Nga Tupuna expressed themselves in Te Ao Maori, he saw that they immersed themselves in design and in representing these designs on things that were of value, of importance.

I really think it is in me, as Maori, you just need to look to the past and see that our forebears put a design on everything.

These observations led Wiremu to an understanding that what he was doing was simply reflecting an age-old tradition but placing it within a modern context.

In particular Wiremu enjoys taking design and making it functional, saying,

I like the idea of putting designs on something that has a practical use…

What makes us different is also important, Wiremu tell, “You would’ve known you were in Aotearoa back in those days even with the absence of people. I look out my window right now, and I could be in Aussie, the US, the UK, there’s really nothing in a general everyday sense that tells us we are in Aotearoa.”

We were interested to know what inspired Wiremu to move to foot and eye wear (considering these are areas that we’ve never seen Maori designs used on) and again being on the cutting edge of Maori design we see that for Wiremu and his business partners Hilton Harris (from whom the idea came from) and Warren McKay, it seemed like a nature progression from designing t-shirts and importantly was a project that would be more challenging.

Finally for Wiremu another important motivator is the notion that “if I, as a Maori don’t, then someone else surely will – if they havent already.

It is all about standing with pride and taking pride in who you are, designer Wiremu Barriball says.

Well said. Incredible work! If you are keen to see more of Tu Ake’s apperal click below:

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