Topic: Te Aouru Ruby Smith (1923-2007)
In 1993 the Local History Staff of Tauranga District Libraries (as it was called then) compiled a booklet Mana Wahine highlighting the prominent women in the Tauranga Moana area. This is one of the mini biographies from the booklet. Note that some comments in the text relate to the time of the original publication (1993).
Te Aouru Ruby Smith was born in Tauranga in 1923, to Tutauanui and Kapumataiti Moiri with Ngai Te Ahi, Ngati Hangarau and Ngai Tukairangi affiliations. One of thirteen children, Ruby was raised in the farming community at Waitawa. Her father died while she was young leaving her to be brought up by her grandmother, Kapuhuia Moiri.
Ruby remembers her Kuia with great fondness and recalls the many hours spent watching her weave harakeke (flax) in the dim light on their bedroom floor - and how intolerant and unappreciative she was of her kuia’s many skills. Today, a lot of Ruby’s enthusiasm for weaving is attributed to this lovely old lady.
In 1961, Ruby married Melvill Smith, a local Pakeha, and lived at Otumoetai. Marrying later in life, they had no children together, although Ruby did have two boys before meeting Melvill. They travelled extensively overseas for holidays, whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Towards the end of the sixties Ruby began to take a deeper interest in Maori arts and crafts, in particular weaving korowai, kete and whariki. Spurred on by Mapihi Allach from the local branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, Ruby set about teaching herself how to weave. With the breakdown of her marriage, Ruby became more absorbed in her work.
Today she is one of a handful of Maori women in the Tauranga Moana area with the skills to make and teach these crafts. She owns an impressive collection of Korowai, Kete, Whariki, Piupiu and many more handmade articles. These things can be seen at family gatherings and especially at tangihanga.
Although nearly 70 years of age [in 1993], she is still actively involved in many projects around the Moana, from tutoring weaving techniques in Whariki, to helping out on tukutuku panels needed in various Wharenui in the area. Her latest venture was to teach the karanga to young Maori women last year at Omanawa.
Ka nui te mihi ki a koe e kui mo to mahi tino miharo