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Spectacular handcrafted ‘Wharenui Harikoa’ arrives at Waikato Museum

28 November 2023

Ko Wharenui Harikoa he poro whaka hakoko. Ko Uenuku tawhana ki te Rangi.
Wharenui Harikoa is a refracting prism of tuupuna-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 1 December 2023. 

The life-size crocheted sculpture titled Wharenui Harikoa [House of Joy] is the creation of husband-and-wife duo Lissy Robinson-Cole (Ngaati Hine, Ngaati Kahu) and Rudi Robinson-Cole (Ngaruahine, Te Arawa, Ngaati Paaoa, Waikato ki Tai). 

“Wharenui Harikoa is Lissy and Rudi’s most ambitious creation to date and we’re so proud to unveil and provide a place for the completed project after years of mahi and collaboration,” said Liz Cotton, Director 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 (Maaori carving) shapes in this unique wharenui. It really is a joy to behold.” 

Known for their vibrant textile artworks, Lissy and Rudi’s artistic practice is grounded in kaupapa, stating that: 

“The aim of Wharenui Harikoa is to manifest intergenerational healing and deeply felt joy, one loop at a time, connecting all people and igniting joy globally.” 

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. 

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

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

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

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

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Please note 

For te reo Maaori, Waikato Museum uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. Artists’ titles are shown in their original form.