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Igniting joy for the World, stitch by stitch


Wharenui Harikoa exhibition ready to spread joy in Waikato (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, November 28, 2023

‘Wharenui Harikoa’ is a refracting prism of tupuna-inspired light that shines across the sky like a rainbow. Nearly 6m tall and made from 5,000 balls of yarn, a spectacular handcrafted wharenui (meeting house) will be revealed at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato in Hamilton on Friday, December 1, 2023.

The life-size crocheted sculpture titled ‘Wharenui Harikoa (House of Joy)’ is the creation of husband and wife duo Lissy Robinson-Cole and Rudi Robinson-Cole who are known widely for using their creative energies to explore Mātauranga Māori and their personal whakapapa through crocheted sculptural forms.

This exhibition of Wharenui Harikoa aims to explore the pain and loss we have all experienced in life while transporting the audience on a joyful and healing journey.​

Healing and connecting

Known for their vibrant textile artworks, Lissy and Rudi’s artistic practice is grounded in kaupapa, stating that “Wharenui Harikoa aims to manifest intergenerational healing and deeply felt joy, one loop at a time, connecting all people and igniting joy globally.”

In 2018, the couple had the vision to create Wharenui Harikoa as an opportunity to create an authentic connection to joy, which is the foundation of this project as a vehicle for them to connect wairua (spirit) to each other and their communities.

The intention is for Wharenui Harikoa to transcend all barriers and to connect with and embrace people from all walks of life, Transforming intergenerational trauma into deeply felt joy one crochet loop at a time.

Artists Lissy Robinson-Cole and Rudi Robinson-Cole (Image Supplied)

About the project

Wharenui Harikoa (House of Joy) is a full-scale wharenui (meeting house) featuring vibrant wall pillars, carved human forms, patterned wall panels and adorned carved centre-post completely crocheted by hand.

“Bringing together bright, neon colours and traditional Māori carving shapes, their mahi offers a new way of understanding the importance of joy and aroha within te ao Māori. Wharenui Harikoa aims to manifest intergenerational healing and deeply felt joy, one loop at a time, connecting all people and igniting joy globally,” the artists said in a statement.

Years of collaboration

“Wharenui Harikoa is Lissy and Rudi’s most ambitious creation to date and we are so proud to unveil and provide a place for the completed project after years of mahi and collaboration,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts.

“As artists they have used their creative energies to explore the stars of Matariki and their personal whakapapa, bringing together bright, neon colours and traditional toi whakairo (Māori carving) shapes in this unique wharenui. It really is a joy to behold.”

Waikato Museum curator Maree Mills has closely followed the trajectory of the project over the years.

Artists Lissy Robinson-Cole and Rudi Robinson-Cole (Image Supplied)

“When I heard about their huge crazy idea, I laid down a challenge to Lissy and Rudi and said ‘You do it, and we will show it here at Te Whare Taonga o Waikato’ in the bold spirit that they inspire,” said Ms Mills.

“To see their dream take its physical form here is just wonderful and will be so inspiring to our visitors this summer.”

Connecting their community stitch by stitch, ‘Wharenui Harikoa’ is an ongoing project brought to life by a huge network of helpers, including contributions from international textile artists and a collaboration with Ootautahi Christchurch-based Outlaw Yarn to produce 300kg of custom hot pink yarn.

Lissy and Rudi will be in residence at Waikato Museum for the opening weekend of the exhibition on Friday 1, Saturday 2, and Sunday 3 December 2023.

Wharenui Harikoa is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 17 March 2024. Entry is free.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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