Traditional Woven Products
Despite the introduction of European fabrics, pride of place in matters of Māori etiquette is still given to traditional woven products. Whāriki (floor mats) might be placed beneath the mattress of an overnight visitor of distinction on a marae. They are also frequently placed beneath a coffin during a tangihanga (funeral period) as a mark of respect to the deceased. Fine mats may be placed under the altar for church services, or spread beneath the feet of participants at a wedding ceremony. It was once not uncommon for a particularly fine mat to be woven on which the birth of an important child would take place.
Floor mats were of greater consequence in earlier times when even the superior carved houses only had dirt floors. This provided a need for several different types of mat, each of which was specialized. Floors of houses were generally covered with various fern fronds to provide a relatively soft base and over this coarse mats, called whāriki and tūwhara, were laid. The finer sleeping mats, takapau, were then spread over these. The most generally used mat was the coarse tāpaki, used in the preparation of food in the hangi (earth oven). Tāpaki were placed over the food in earth pits and then heaped over with earth to retain the steam and heat around the food.
Woven Baskets (Kete)
There are many different kinds of woven baskets known as kete (kit bags). The leaves of tī kouka, whanake (cabbage tree), or nīkau palm, are often used, but flax is the chief material employed. A flax platter or shallow kete, used for serving food, was probably the first production of a novice weaver. They were discarded after being used only once.
In ancient times the most beautiful woven basket work was the baby basket, woven by a skilled weaver expecting her first child. A special chant was used to invoke the help of the weaving atua (god). Kits and baskets are today the most commonly used of all indigenous products. As a functional item they are found throughout the country, and used extensively by both Māori and Pākēhā (caucasians).