Two amo stand tall. One is Urutengangana, God of Light, and the other is Hine Turama, a goddess who created the stars. Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole share why they are hooked on crochet.
These amo, upright supports for the front of a meeting house, will be part of Wharenui Harikoa, a structure five metres across, six metres deep, and four metres tall, which is to be entirely covered in crochet. It has been designed collaboratively, by crochet designers Lissy (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu) and Rudi (Waikato, Ngāti Paoa, Ngāruahine) Robinson-Cole. Once it’s complete, the husband and wife duo plan to tour it throughout Aotearoa and then the world. “A lot of people are afraid to be in a wharenui because they don’t know how to act,” Rudi says, “but we find our art expression breaks down those barriers.”
As a child, Lissy spent many hours with her fashion designer father, Colin Cole, playing with fabric, beads, feathers, and trim. She experimented with many forms of textiles, and found crochet “opened up a whole new creative flow.” Over the past 15 years Rudi has worked predominantly with metals. He has also worked with Māori sculptor Eugene Kara at Te Puia Arts and Crafts Institute. Now the couple work together to create large-scale crochet-covered art installations.
Lissy and Rudi live in Ōtāhuhu Tāmaki Makaurau and work out of a studio at the Nathan Homestead in Auckland. Wharenui Harikoa (meaning house of joy) represents the purpose at the heart of the couple’s kaupapa: to ignite joy globally. “We call it the Te Aho Mutunga Kore, the never-ending thread,” Rudi says, “which goes all around the world and comes right back here to Aotearoa.”
Using bright colours and traditional whakairo patterns, each aspect of the wharenui explores a different element of Matariki. When they take their wharenui global, Lissy says, the finished piece will include educational augmented-reality elements. Their vision is to have an app that gives viewers information about parts of the wharenui, which can be translated into different languages. “It’s a beautiful way to share that Mātauranga Māori. We’re being taken on this beautiful journey of reclamation, of discovery of who we are as Māori. For us, the crochet hook unlocked that magic box that not everybody gets to open.”
First published in Art Zone #88