Traditional Māori Weaving
When Māori arrived in Aotearoa (New Zealand), the clothing they wore in the Pacific would have been totally inadequate in winter. This provided the spur for the development of garments that must be considered to be amongst the highest artistic achievements of Māori.
In times past, initial instruction into the arts of weaving was given to novices only under strict conditions and with a great deal of ceremony. The laws of tapu (sacredness) prevailed and only by a strict adherence to the rules and formula could a pupil ever hope to master the craft.
After much discussion and advice the novice would commence a first ‘pattern piece’ under the guidance of two experts. This was done to ensure the pupil was receptive and clearly grasped the lessons given, and was to ensure those lessons would be fixed in the pupil’s mind.
Plaited flax textiles were generally rather stiff, rough and uncomfortable when placed next to the skin, so a weaving technique was developed which allowed Māori to make garments that were both beautiful and comfortable.
The New Zealand flax plant provided the raw material for these garments, of which the cloak became the most highly prized. Few items, if any, carry the prestige that is associated with the possession of one of these prized cloaks.