MECF staff receive the Harikoa crochet sculpture created by MECF men. (L-R) Lissy Robinson-Cole, MECF Regional Volunteer Co-ordinator Ghissy Lee, Senior Corrections Officer Charity Niha, Principal Corrections Officer Sean Kelly, and Rudi Robinson.Who knew that a brightly coloured contemporary creative twist could infuse a renewed passion for the age-old craft of crocheting, and elevate traditional and beloved Māori concepts to a whole new level of modern art?

It’s happening in New Zealand, and also at Mount Eden Corrections Facility (MECF), thanks to the exuberant artistic Auckland couple Rudi Robinson and Lissy Robinson-Cole.

“Taught to crochet by Rudi (who was taught by Lissy), a group of 22 men in our care in Papa Unit created a three-dimensional sculpture of Harikoa, the kaitiaki of joy,” says MECF Regional Volunteer Co-ordinator Ghissy Lee.

“Each of the men contributed individual trimmings they have crocheted themselves, such as squares, chains and hearts. These were assembled to cover a polystyrene sculpture of Harikoa carved by Rudi. The completed sculpture is now on display in the MECF visits hall.”

Learning to crochet reminded some of the men of their nanas and led to the sharing of childhood memories with one another in the crochet class. Another participant was also inspired to crochet a beanie for his young son.

It seems a revitalised crochet revolution is taking New Zealand by storm. Lissy and Rudi are showcasing their colourful crocheted Te Ao Māori-inspired installations in art galleries, and they also decorate whatever crosses their path – be it neighbourhood fences, their house, and even their car.

“Learning to crochet is easy and quick, and so therapeutic,” explain Lissy and Rudi.

“It’s all about the loop, and connecting; just as we are all connected through our whakapapa. Our kaupapa is all about joy and love; the joy and love we have deep in our hearts, thanks to the love we have received from our whānau, friends, and the world.”

The couple is working on an ambitious personal project, at present: crocheting a multi-coloured wharenui (6m long and 5m wide) with which they want to tour through the entire New Zealand, stretching people’s imaginations and teaching everyone to connect through the art of crochet.

Plans are also under way to deliver another ten-week crochet programme at MECF following the success of the first course.