Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard
Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard is one of New Zealand's finest practitioners of Māori weaving. He has exhibited his works in New Zealand and internationally, and has been awarded residencies in the USA. His areas of specialty are; tukutuku, kete, piupiu, poi tāniko, and kākahu.
Karl was born and raised amongst his people of Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Ngāti Ngāraranui at Waiteti, Rotorua, Aotearoa. He is also from Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Raukawa. Karl grew up amongst carvers and weavers on both the maternal (Niao) and paternal (Leonard) sides of his family, and the artforms of weaving and carving were a normal part of his everyday life. His grandmother Ranginui Parewahawaha Leonard was well known for the age to which she lived, 112 years, but also for her weaving skills. Her daughters Rangimahora Reihana-Mete and Hei Tiki Blair were also skilled weavers who practiced modern craft as well as traditional.
In addition to weavers, their brother, Karl’s uncle Pakeke Leonard was an avid carver. On Karl’s maternal side his mother’s brother, Kaka Niao was a well known carver of his time, having been schooled in the Ngāti Tarāwhai style of carving. Karl himself spent a year with his uncle Kaka learning the art of carving from him.
Karl’s formal introduction to weaving skills were to be further enhanced amongst the guiding staff, in particular the kuia of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, now known as Te Puia. He began work there in 1983 and remained a staff member for 16 years. While weaving was his number one interest at the time, his journey was to lead him down the path of another artform which was piupiu making. While this artform has been the domain of women, he is the only male, of which there is a handful, with the most extensive background in the art of piupiu making.
In 2004 Karl took up a position as Director of Design and Art Studies at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a Māori Tertiary Institution based in Otaki, Aotearoa (New Zealand). It was here that Karl began to rekindle his passion for weaving and look seriously at how to refine the artform of piupiu to beyond it’s well known ‘performance only’ function. He has since exhibited his works both nationally and internationally, as well as having works in museums and private collections in Aotearoa and overseas.