Maori Flax Weaving

When Māori arrived in 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.

Māori devised a method of producing fine thread from muka (flax fibre) from which they wove garments and other items of extraordinary beauty. At Te Rito, students are not only taught the skills of the art form but also the traditions and tikanga (protocols). In earlier times, learning weaving was a tapu (sacred) and intensive activity. As well as learning how to weave harakeke (flax) and other materials, students learn the stories and designs unique to each iwi (tribe) in New Zealand.
After visiting several important Maori museums and galleries, I've decided that the Maori tradition is quiet poetic. For example, Te Rito is the Maori name for the baby shoot that sits deep at the heart of the flax. That baby is protected by two outside shoots, the mother and father. Weavers learn never to touch the inner three shoots when cutting the flax as they are the nucleus - the family unit, too precious to be broken. Without these shoots, the flax will lose its identity.