Born in Niue in 1954, Ahi Makaea-Cross grew up in the Eastern village of Liku, a place where weaving was a part and parcel of the course of everyday life. From her preschool days she learnt how to prepare the coconut and pandanus leaf and weave rudimentary toys and the functional objects such as food mats that are still used today.
After travelling to New Zealand in 1970 like so many of her people at that time, she met with the young artist Mark Cross in 1976 and they returned with a young family to Niue in 1978.
Returning to New Zealand during the 80’s Ahi made many connections with the older Niuean weavers in Auckland and after all the children were at school she returned to the craft in a serious way. At the same time she was learning skills in the areas of remedial massage and other alternative healing methods and in 1991 she went to China to study Tradition Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture at the Red Cross Hospital in Hangzhou. This healing knowledge worked in tandem with her weaving skills. With her added involvement in her husband’s art environment, these skills were starting to go beyond the level of mere utilitarian craftwork and into the realms of art in their own right.
This continued development, which sometimes employs the use of modern dyes, has allowed her work to evolve into stunning works of art. Although they are obviously derived from the traditional methods, these methods have been refined so that the quality of the handwork exceeds that used by the traditional utilitarian crafts people of the Pacific. Also, this refinement has been extended so that new and unexpected shapes are being produced, mainly in the bowl form. The use of modern dyes has allowed for the introduction of the multiple colouring of the unique, but intrinsically Polynesian designs and motifs that Ahi uses to decorate her sculptured forms.
With the dominating demand for consumer items the craft of weaving, especially in its more intricate forms, is slowly dying in the Pacific. With her work, which often takes up to a year to complete, Ahi Makaea-Cross has transcended the craft-to-art barrier and therefore is creating historically important artworks that utilise the knowledge of old to express a sense of the Pacific of the present, which in turn illuminates the hopes and possibilities for the Pacific of the future. As the leading practitioner of these ancient techniques in the Pacific, Ahi’s works are a twenty first century celebration of a millennium of women’s input into the cultural life of the Pacific.
- 1998 - WEAVE – Casula Powerhouse, Sydney (Pacific Wave Festival)
- 1999 – Tulana Mahu Installation – Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery
- 2000 – Tulana Mahu Installation – Sydney College of Art, Sydney Olympic Arts Festival
- 2000 – Noumea Biennial , New Caledonia
- 2001 – Tulana Mahu Installation – Manawatu Art Gallery, New Zealand
- 2002 – Cook Island National Museum