LISSY ROBINSON-COLE (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu) and RUDI ROBINSON-COLE (Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Makirangi, Ngāti Tu, Te Arawa) are a husband-and-wife team whose artworks explore mātauranga Māori and personal whakapapa through crocheted woollen sculpture.
To date the artists’ largest and most ambitious project has been ‘Wharenui Harikoa’ (House of Joy), a full-size crocheted whare whakairo (carved meeting house) created in collaboration with whanau, community and international textile artists.
The ‘Wharenui Harikoa’ project has been presented in two partial iterations – at Objectspace (Auckland) in May 2022 and at the Dowse Art Museum (Wellington) in October 2022 – but will be seen for the first time in its fully complete form at Waikato Museum in late 2023.
Lissy & Rudi Robinson-Cole’s work is accessible to anyone, whatever their whakapapa.
“Often non-Māori wonder how to access Māori art”, says Rudi. “They may feel intimidated or cautious about over-stepping boundaries. But our soft woollen medium helps them to relate more easily and it opens up some of those conversations.
“For Māori, as well, it brings back those nostalgic feelings of being safe under a blanket that Nanny has made. You hear that kōrero too.
“Through crochet we have come to understand the symbolism of connecting ‘loops’ and how the loops reflect the complex relationships we have with ourselves and others, and to the past, present and future.” Lissy describes crochet as “a portal of joy. We see ourselves as a prism in which the aroha of our tūpuna shines through us and is expressed in our own unique ways – like the spectrum of the rainbow. As their aroha radiates through us it is reflected back to us by the light and aroha of our communities. Our practice is grounded in one central kaupapa; to transform intergenerational trauma into deeply felt joy, one loop at a time.”
In 1927 the American poet Max Ehrmann gently suggested that “with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole’s life-affirming energy crosses cultures – connecting us to one another – and their message is the same.