God bless America. God save the Queen. God defend New Zealand and thank Christ for Australia. (Russell Crowe)
For a wee blogger who originates from the land of the long white cloud, I really don’t feature nearly enough New Zealand artisans. And, there is so much talent to choose from.
Given the Olympics are currently on, and I’m feeling just a touch patriotic, I thought it might be appropriate to introduce you to the beautiful textiles from Native Agent that are so very Kiwi.
I’ve never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there. (Madeleine Albright)
In 2004, artist Rona Ngahuia Osborne, graphic designer Dan Mace, and business manager extraordinaire Lindsay Mace joined forces and launched the Native Agent brand.
During 2010 Lindsay became very ill and the trio closed the doors on their Kingsland store to focus on her care. They continued to sell Native Agent products through selected retail partners, and began to develop the online side of the business. Sadly, in 2011 Lindsay passed away but the Native Agent brand continues.
Rona’s creative handiwork is central to the Native Agent aesthetic. Inspired by the meeting of Māori and Pakeha cultures in New Zealand’s colonial past, she creates woolen blankets (my favourites), cushions, linen and clothing that have earned a place in many hearts, and many homes.
In 19th century New Zealand, Native Agents were representatives of the crown. They were fluent in the Māori language and therefore able to advocate for, and assist Māori, with land transactions and other matters of law. Dan is a descendant of a Native Agent, so this title seemed an appropriate name for their venture, an agency where the best ‘native’ New Zealand design could be showcased to the world.
Rona’s work is rich in symbolism, weaving together stories that reflect her family’s history, stories of the blending of blood lines and the coming together of people and culture. Woolen blankets were common items of trade between European settlers and Māori, so it is fitting that they form the foundation for many of her works. She adorns them with layers of shape, colour and iconography representative of New Zealand’s cultural history and symbols of the natural world.
Many of the defining themes in the work that Rona creates as Native Agent make historical references to land struggles that led to conflict and war, the trading of muskets and blankets for land, and the extinction of native flora and fauna. These struggles are as relevant today as they were at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Native Agent website is lovely – go check it out (here) even if you don’t want to purchase.