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Sharing flax of life

HAMISH M ACLEAN
Last updated 05:00 24/10/2012

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Toi Maihi is a celebrated weaver, artist and writer who has been sharing positive energy in Kaikohe since November.

Ms Maihi along with Beebee Bourke has set up shop in the back of Mike Fitzgerald's Greenworld Health and Lifestyle on Broadway.

There's a table set out and flax in the window and they weave. And these days, they're not the only ones.

The door has been left open.

There are no fees. It's simply a koha and shared lunch. And it's sharing traditional skills in a traditional way.

Ms Maihi is in a special class of weavers. She has done 50-plus years of Maori weaving and has been honoured as such.

Te Papa national museum in Wellington opened its first comprehensive exhibition of Maori cloaks in July as a consequence of Whatu Kakahu, a definitive book on Maori cloaks which Ms Maihi contributed to.

She was invited to contribute to the exhibition.

The work she's doing in Kaikohe is very low key. It's friendly and casual, but she says "you can be as serious as you like".

The group is now producing both small useful objects and seriously beautiful art work.

Ms Bourke and Ms Maihi have created a space where healthy living is celebrated.

There's a lot of talking when the weaving is happening. And it is changing the spirit of the town.

It's a relaxing atmosphere where some people just drop in to chat.

"So many people just seemed aimless - wandering around town and sad really. I thought I've got all these skills and if I could just find a place where I could weave that didn't cost anything I'd use the vacuum cleaner method," she says.

And it's working. She's sucked people in off the street and her knowledge is spreading through the community.

"I just really wanted to suck them in the door with their sad faces and send them home happy."

From 10am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays she weaves with anybody who wishes to join her and Ms Bourke.

There is no instruction as such. Ms Maihi just sits and weaves and when somebody asks her how she's doing what she's doing she tells them.

One of the reasons she started is because flax is free and available everywhere. Certain flaxes serve different needs. She shows people how to harvest it so it's not damaged.

Ms Maihi sees weaving as a part of a holistic vision of health.

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