Toi — Māori Arts

Raranga – the art of weaving

When Māori first arrived in Aotearoa, they encountered a climate that was extreme compared to their homelands in Polynesia. They adapted quickly by using their weaving skills to produce cloaks and other practical objects such as baskets and mats. The most widely used weaving material was harakeke, a type of flax.

Weaving is traditionally done by women, and skilled weavers are prized within their tribes. Cloaks were woven by hand between two upright weaving pegs. Feathers and decorative threads were integrated into the fabric during weaving. Natural dyes were used for a variety of colors.

The most prized of cloaks incorporated strips of dog skin. They were only worn by chiefs.

Whakairo – the art of carving

Whakairo (Māori carvings) each tell a unique story, passed down through generations to explain cultural traditions and tribal history. Traditionally Māori carvers were men. They carved weapons, tools, musical instruments, canoes and decorative panels and posts for the various buildings within the village.

Precious adornments were (and are still) worn as a sign of prestige; they include earrings, pendants and carved hair combs. These were made from jade and whale ivory. Other materials, like albatross feathers and sharks teeth, were also incorporated.

Māori carvings are rich in symbolism and use common patterns. Symbols include the tiki, which represents the human figure, and the manaia, a creature with bird-like head and serpent-like body. Traditional patterns used in carving were often inspired by the natural environment, including spider webs, fish scales, and the unfurling fronds of the fern.

Source: Toi — Māori Arts
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