A Samoan woman’s global influence

The One Million Stars to end violence project by Samoan master weaver, Maryann Talia Pau, was one of the most talked about public art installation in the world this year.

The record breaking public installation at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was the end point for a project that started out in 2012 when the exhibiting artist found an outlet to respond to a tragic event.

It involved the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, a fellow member of her small tightknit community in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.

Maryann is currently on a two weeks break in Samoa contemplating her next move creatively and how to continue the movement that she indirectly started six years ago.

“I’m just taking some time to think about what I want to do next with the project because the reach and the impact have been so big, people want to keep weaving stars and people still are weaving stars in communities across Canada and Australia, Malaysia. They have found it to be very therapeutic and a beautiful creative tool to bring people together to have these conversations and if not, just to create a sense of belonging for people.”

The therapeutic values of weaving are something that Maryann sees as one of the main reasons behind its popularity across so many different cultures. 

“The star is almost like a distraction, it’s not really important, it’s really the process that is important. That’s what I love as a weaver, the thing that we make is beautiful but it’s the process, it’s the friendships that are built, the conversations that you have. People are resolving stuff, people get to debrief stuff and talk about what’s confronting them. People are feeling better for it.”

The master weaver retells of her own spiritual awakening in 2008 when she first discovered that she was called to weave at an indigenous weaving conference. Without any past experience of weaving, Maryann instinctively knew what to do.

“I went to an indigenous weaving conference in 2008 called ‘Selling Yarns’. I got to sit and weave with a Master Weaver from Northern Queensland. As soon as she put the pandanus in my hand, I got so emotional. I was like, what is happening? It was almost like an out of body experience, I was having a physical reaction.

“I wasn’t even paying attention to what I was weaving. I ended up crying and covered my face because I was embarrassed that I was crying. And my aunty looked at what I was weaving and said ‘Maryann you’re meant to weave’.

“That was it, I just went home. I never weaved before. I never knew that was something I would even do until I held that pandanus leaf in my hand. It really did feel like I woke up and I knew what to do.”

The weaver hasn’t stopped since. Maryann continues to practice her craft taking one of Samoa’s oldest arts and craft practices to innovative and exciting heights in the art world.

After such a mammoth project, Maryann is taking a time out and a chance to seek out weaving practices here in Samoa. Having had the opportunities to practice different weaving techniques around the Pacific, the contemporary master Weaver turns her attention to Samoan styles.

“Through weaving and art, I have become closer with my parents, just learning more about what it means to be Samoan and all those family values, what it means to be a strong woman and someone who’s responsible for your family. So it's been a really amazing journey to achieve something like this with the Million Stars Project.”

Maryann partnered with the Queensland Government collecting stars from more than 15 countries including Samoa, Cook Islands, Canada, England, Kenya, Barbados, Fiji, New Zealand, Japan, USA, Malaysia, Scotland, Tonga, Nigeria and Australia and hundreds of thousands of star weavers including schools, workplaces, faith communities, athletes, libraries, Refugee and L.G.B.T.Q.I. plus communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island groups, men, women, children from all backgrounds and abilities.

Photos supplied by Maryann.

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