Regional | Artists

'It's their time to shine': Tā moko designers of new Silver Ferns' dress 'proud for our people'

Silver Fern Grace Nweke wearing the new Manawarau dress design created by tā moko artists Maia Gibbs and Henare Brooking. Source / YouTube / Silver Ferns TV 

Two Te Tairāwhiti tā moko artists have created the Silver Ferns' new dress design, Manawarau, unveiled for the first time on Wednesday.

"Henare and I are really only pencils to their designs," Maia Gibbs said, modestly.

"We are truly grateful and humbled they came to us."

Maia Gibbs (Ngāti Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu) and Henare Brooking (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) designed the New Zealand Warriors' NRL indigenous round jersey last year and said they wanted the Silver Ferns dress which incorporates Māori weaving patterns to be meaningful.

Tā moko artist Maia Gibbs who with Henare Brooking created the Silver Ferms 'Manawarau' world cup dress design. Source / YouTube / Silver Ferns TV 

"We didn’t just want it to be a design," said Gibbs. "We are tā moko, we move in a Māori space where everything has meaning".

The Silver Ferns were after a design, which linked them to the players who had gone before them and represented who they are as players today, for the netball world cup in South Africa later this month.

"Myself and Maia really wanted to give the dress a name, a name of significance and acknowledgement of those past players of the Ferns," said Brooking.

Tā moko artist Henare Brooking said they wanted the dress to have a name that was 'significant'. Source / YouTube / Silver Ferns TV 

The name that was chosen was Manawarau.

"Manawarau talks about a beating heartbeat, a singular beating heartbeat that acknowledges players that have come before, that have worn the dress before, that have gone on to do amazing things for NZ netball and bringing it forward to now.

"The opportunity that the players have in this particular moment to paint their own picture with the dress and to put their mark on it, and to take a step forward and put it into a new level for the next generation to pick it up and run with it," said Gibbs.

The new Silver Ferns dress features the design work of tā moko artists Maia Gibbs and Henare Brooking. Source / YouTube / Silver Ferns TV 

Whānau links to Silver Ferns

Both artists have strong connections to the Silver Ferns and grew up surrounded by netball.

Gibbs is the son of former Silver Ferns captain and coach Leigh Gibbs, while Brooking is the nephew of Netball New Zealand president Tina Karaitiana.

Leigh Gibbs is understood to have had no idea her son was helping to create the design until it was presented to the Ferns team - and was just as unaware her other son, Pera Gibbs, the Northern Mystics strength and conditioning coach, had a role in bringing it together.

Mystics captain and Silver Fern, Sulu Fitzpatrick, is said to have mentioned to Pera Gibbs that the team was after an indigenous design for their world cup dress and he put them together with his brother Maia and Brooking at their Toi Ake Māori art gallery in Gisborne.

They had just designed a jersey, called Te Amokura, for the New Zealand Warriors for their 2022 NRL indigenous round match that was an “expression of connection, unity and identity”.

More than a drawing on a dress

The artists said it was important their design work for the Silver Ferns represented more than just a drawing on a dress.

"We are tā moko, we move in a Māori space where everything has meaning, everything is inclusive. We didn't just want it to be a design. It needed to be grounded. That's what's really special to us," Gibbs said.

"From when we had the first kōrero with the team last year, to coming back and hearing their thoughts on what we had delivered, has been really amazing.

"We’ve learned how they’ve added their own whakaaro [understanding] to what we had given them and seen how it has been reflected as an entirety,” he said.

Get an inside look at the meaning behind the Silver Ferns' new world cup dress, Manawarau. Source / YouTube

Gibbs acknowledged it was a special time for the Silver Ferns.

"It's their time, it's their time to shine, to express themselves, to represent their families, to represent themselves, to represent their whakapapa on the world stage."

Brooking added that it was a proud moment for them as artists but also for "our people".

"Not only proud for us, we're proud that we're products of our iwi, our hapū and our people of Te Tairāwhiti and having the opportunity to work with the Ferns and create something for them, create something unique."