Three Stocking Stuffers from Te Papa Press

Published: Sat 7 Dec 2019 09:26 PM
Three Stocking Stuffers from Te Papa Press
“The garments themselves tell us what did occur, but to understand them we must learn their language as expressed through the minute details of technique.” - Te Rangi Hiroa.
Two hundred and fifty years after James Cook first sighted Aotearoa on October 6, 1769, interest in all aspects of his three voyages to the Pacific between 1768 and 1779 is still growing - from the initial 'discovery' by Europeans, the role played by astronomy and the natural sciences, and the pictorial record, to interactions with indigenous communities. For many, the ‘artificial curiosities’ - works of human manufacture from exotic locations - collected on these voyages both by Cook himself and others on his ships, including supernumeraries and servants, have retained a particular fascination. Once again, Te Papa Press has distinguished itself by publishing three wonderfully informative and beautifully produced volumes that handsomely illustrate these discoveries. The first describes the people and cultures encountered during Cook's voyages to the Antipodes, the other two highlight in more detail two of the Māori cultural treasures he found there. Not only were they capable of carving catamaran canoes that sailed across the Southern oceans and building sheltered encampments of great solidity and aesthetic beauty; they also wove intricate and beautiful cloaks from flax and bird-feathers in order to keep themselves warm, and skillfully carved exquisite greenstone ornaments with which to decorate themselves.
In The Cook Voyages Encounters, respected Pacific scholar Janet Davidson details the collection of Māori, Pacific, and Native American objects associated with the voyages held at Te Papa, one of the few significant institutional collections that have not been fully described until now. Richly illustrated and accessibly written, it is a treasure trove of fascinating items from Hawaii, Tonga, the Society Islands, and Aotearoa, as well as two smaller groups of Native American objects from Tierra del Fuego and the Northwest Coast of North America. This highly informative volume provides a comprehensive guide to the objects associated with all three voyages held at New Zealand's National Museum.
A graduate of the University of Auckland, Davidson began her career at the Dominion Museum. She was an honorary lecturer at the University of Otago before being appointed Senior Curator, Pacific, at Te Papa, where she is currently an Honorary Research Associate. Davidson's career has combined pioneering fieldwork across the Pacific with an imaginative approach to museum research and display that has attracted many young scholars. She has published extensively on the prehistory of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, edited the New Zealand Journal of Archaeology from 1985-2008, and contributes regularly to the Journal of the Polynesian Society. In 2007, Vastly Ingenious: The Archaeology of Pacific Material Culture was published in her honour.
Whatu Kākahu | Māori Cloaks opens the doors of Te Whare Pora o Hine-teiwaiwa, the Te Papa storeroom, to reveal one of the largest collection of kākahu in the world. Informative essays by experts outline the intricate techniques employed in their construction, explaining the tradition and spiritual significance of weaving. A major section examines forty kākahu from the Te Papa collection in detail, while also discussing the care and continuity of Māori cloak weaving from the viewpoint of practitioners, researchers, and museum custodians. This revised edition includes rare cloaks held in overseas museums many new cloaks that have been acquired by Te Papa, and a new chapter concerning modern kākahu that have come into the collection since 2011.
Māori wore two main types of garments - a knee length kilt-like garment around the waist and secured by a belt, and a rectangular garment over the shoulders. This might be a cape-like garment or a long cloak of finer quality. Flax belts were often plaited in patterns with black and white stripes and tied with string. Women's belts composed of many strands of plaited fibre were known as tu, while men's belts, usually more ornate, were known as tatua. These were usually made of New Zealand flax, but occasionally other materials were used, such as kiekie pingao.
Māori made textiles from a number of plants, including harakeke, whararikiti, koukatoi, pingao, kiekiee, and toetoe. Although the paper mulberry was also introduced by Māori, who knew it as aute, it seems not to have thrived and bark cloth tapa was always rare. The prepared fibre therefore became the basis of most clothing. The leaves were split and woven into mats, ropes, and nets, while clothing was made from the fibre, or muka, found within the leaves, which were stripped using mussel shells, dressed by soaking and pounding with stone pounders (patu muka) to soften the fibre, spun by rolling the thread against the leg, then finely woven together. Dyes were sourced from indigenous materials - Paru (a form of mud, high in iron salts) provided black, raureka bark made yellow, and tneka bark made a tan colour. The colours were set by rolling the dyed muka in alum (potash).
The typology of these fine cloaks is complex and includes variations known as korowai, kaitaka, kahu huruhuru, and kahu kuri, all woven from muka using the Tāniko technique. Korowai are finely woven cloaks covered with tassels (hukahuka) made by the miro (twist thread) process of dyeing the mukaand rolling two bundles into a single cord which was woven into the body of the cloak. There are many different sorts of korowai, named depending on the type of hukahuka used for decoration. Korowai karure have tassels that appear to be unravelling. Korowai ngore use hukahuka that look like pompoms, while korowai hihima have undyed tassels. Korowai seem to have been rare at the time of Captain Cook's first visit to New Zealand because they do not appear in drawings made by his artists, but by 1844, when George French Angas painted historical accounts of early New Zealand, korowai with their black hukahuka had become the predominant style. Hukahuka on fine examples of korowai were often up to thirty centimeters long and, when made correctly, would move freely with every movement of the wearer. Many old korowai have lost their black hukahuka because the dyeing process also accelerates the deterioration of the muka.
Kaitaka are cloaks of woven muka fibre and are among the more prestigious forms of traditional Maori dress. They are only made from those varieties of Phormium tenax that yield the finest quality fibre, characterised by a silk-like texture and rich golden sheen. Kaitaka are usually adorned with broad taniko borders at the remu (bottom) and narrow taniko bands along the kauko (sides). The ua (upper border) is plain and undecorated, and the kaupapa (main body) is usually unadorned. There are several sub-categories of kaitaka: parawai, where the aho (wefts) run horizontally; kaitaka paepaeroa, where the aho run vertically; kaitaka aronui or patea, where the aho run horizontally with taniko bands on the sides and bottom borders; huaki, where the aho run horizontally with taniko bands on the sides and two broad taniko bands, one above the other, on the lower border; and huaki paepaeroa, which has vertical aho with double taniko bands on the lower border.
Fine feather cloaks called kahu huruhuru were made of muka with bird feathers woven in to cover the entire cloak. These cloaks became more common between 1850 and 1900. Early examples include kahu kiwi (kiwi feather cloak), which used the soft brown feathers of the kiwi, and kahu kiwi , regarded as the most prestigious form of kahu huruhuru. Other kahu huruhuru incorporated the green and white feathers of the hereru and blue feathers from tui birds.
A particularly rare type of cloak known as kahu kuri was made from strips of dog skin with hair attached that were taken from the Māori dogs which became extinct during the 1870s. The main body was constructed of strips of white-haired dog skin of various lengths, sewn onto the kaupapa (main body) of the cloak with fine bone needles to form a tightly woven foundation called pukupuku. The pukupuku weaving technique uses the whatu-aho-patahi (single pair twine) method, which is very similar to the decorative geometric taniko (fine embroidery or weaving in a geometric pattern) border designs usually seen on the kaitaka class of cloak, forming a thick and heavy protective garment. The awe (the tassels that fringe the outside length of the cloak) was usually taken from the underside of the dog's tail. The kurupatu (plaited hem on the cloak edge) is separate to the main kaupapa and made by threading strips together to form a length of collar that was subsequently sewn onto the neck of the finished garment.
Kahu kuri are garments possessing great mana (status, prestige, power) and were highly prized heirlooms. Each garment had its own personal name and its history was carefully preserved up to the time they passed out of Maori ownership. However, most are in museum collections around the world and have lost their provenance. The possession of a kahu kuri immediately identified the owner as a rangatira (chief) or someone who possessed prestige and position within the hapu (sub-tribe or family) or iwi (tribe). They were often exchanged between people of rank on important ceremonial occasions and affirmed both the mana of the giver and the recipient. Kahu kuri were made largely between 1500 and 1850 and production had ceased altogether by the early nineteenth century. There are several different varieties of kahu kuri and some tribal variation in the application of the descriptive terms of these types. Some of the types recorded include topuni, ihupuni, awarua, kahuwaero, mahiti, and puahi, but the construction technique remains essentially the same.
Taniko refers to any ornamental border typically found on mats and clothes. The patterns are very geometric in form because they can be reduced down to small coloured squares repeated on a lattice framework. These base square forms, articulated in the hands of a weaver, constitute the larger diamond and triangle shapes that are visible in all traditional weaving crafts. Pātiki or patikitiki (flounder/flat fish) designs are based on the lozenge or diamond shape of the flounder. They can be quite varied within the basic shape. The kaokao (side or rib) pattern is formed by zigzag lines that create chevrons. These can be horizontal or vertical, open with paces or closed repetitive lines. The design is sometimes interpreted as the arms of warriors caught in haka (fierce rhythmic dance) action. The niho taniwha pattern is a notched-tooth design found on all types of objects, mats, woven panels, belts, and clothing. The poutama is a stepped design signifying the growth of man, striving ever upwards, while tahekeheke (striped) designs refer to any distinct vertical patterning.
The whetu (stars), purapura whetu (weaving pattern of stars) or roimata (teardrop) pattern is a geometric design using two colours and alternating between them at every stitch. This design is associated with the survival of an iwi, hapu, or whanau (extended family), the general concept being that it is vital to propagate a large whanau, just as there are an immeasurable number of stars in the Milky Way. Intriguingly, at approximately the same time in the Southwestern deserts on the other side of the Pacific, Navajo weavers were employing similar abstract and geometric designs in their blankets. In both cases, their purpose evolved from the practical need to keep warm to a decorative art that rivals Western embroidery in its range of rigorous aesthetic design.
Ranging from the primitive and precious, through the unique and prestigious, to their contemporary reincarnation, Whatu Kākahu is the definitive description of Māori cloaks in Te Papa’s collections. Illustrated throughout with stunning photographs that document the subtle beauty of these cultural treasures, it celebrates the mātauranga, science, and art of Māori weaving. Editor Awhina Tamarapa holds a Bachelor of Māori Laws and Philosophy from Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Otaki, and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University, where she majored in Anthropology. She has worked in museums for over ten years, including as concept developer and collection manager at Te Papa, and brings a refreshing accessibility to the project.
While many books have been written about pounamu in general, no volume specifically concerned with hei-tiki has been published since the late 1950s. Douglas Austin's Te Hei Tiki examines and celebrates their long history and the enduring cultural potency of these taonga. Geologically, the term pounamu refers to several types of hard and durable stone found found only in areas of the South Island known as Te Wai Pounamu (the [land of] greenstone water) or Te Wahi Pounamu (the place of greenstone). Pounamu are usually composed of nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentinite, but Māori prefer to classify them as kawakawa, kahurangi, īnanga, and tangiwai, depending on their colour and appearance. The first three are nephrite jade, while tangiwai is a form of bowenite. In modern usage, Pounamu generally refers to nephrite jade retrieved from within nondescript boulders and stones which are difficult to identify without splitting them apart.
Pounamu taonga increase in mana (power and prestige) as they are passed from one generation to another, the most valuable being those with known histories that span centuries. These are believed to have acquired their own mana and were often given as gifts to seal important agreements. As in Antiques Roadshow, provenance is all. The term pounamu taonga covers many disparate purposes, including essential tools such as toki (adzes), whao (chisels), whao whakakōka (gouges), ripi pounamu (knives), as well as scrapers, awls, hammer stones, and drill points. Hunting tools include matau (fishing hooks and lures, spear points) and kākā poria (leg rings for fastening captive birds). Weaponry such as (short handled clubs (mere) and ornamental pendants (hei-tiki, hei-matau, and pekapeka), earrings (kuru, kapeu), and cloak pins were all made from greenstone. Functional pounamu tools were widely worn for both practical and ornamental reasons, and continued to be used as purely ornamental pendants (hei-kaki) even after they were no longer functional tools.
Of all Maori personal adornments, the human figure pendants known as hei-tiki are the most highly prized and culturally iconic. One theory of their origin suggests a connection with Tiki, the original man in Māori mythology. According to H.G. Robley, author of A History of the Māori Tiki, two main ideas lie behind the symbolism of hei-tiki - they are either memorials to ancestors, or represent the goddess of childbirth, Hineteiwaiwa. The reasoning behind the first idea is that they were often buried when their kaitiaki (guardian) died and would be later retrieved and placed somewhere special to be brought out in times of tangihanga (mourning and associated activities). Because of the connection with Hineteiwaiwa, hei-tiki were often given to a woman by her husband's family if she was having trouble conceiving. Robley observed some similarities between hei-tiki and Asian images of Buddha, which were often fashioned in green jade. He believed they may have been a forgotten memory of this tradition in a debased form. A 2014 thesis by Dougal Austin, based on a survey of the Te Papa collection and early-contact examples in foreign collections, found that the mana of hei-tiki is derived from the "agency of prolonged ancestral use" and stylistically was "highly developed ... from the outset to conform to adze-shaped pieces of pounamu."
Historically, there were several types of hei-tiki, which varied widely in form and detail. Considering the size and style of traditional examples, it is likely that the stone was first cut in the form of a small adze. The tilted head of the pitau variety of hei-tiki derives from the properties of the stone, since its hardness and great value made it essential to minimise the amount of stone that had to be removed. Creating a hei-tiki using traditional methods is a lengthy and arduous process during which the stone is smoothed by abrasive rubbing using sticks and water. It is slowly shaped, the holes bored out, and after months of laborious and careful polishing, the completed pendant is suspended by a plaited cord, secured by a loop and toggle. Contemporary hei-tiki, however, may be divided into two general types. The first is more delicate, with a head/body ratio of approximately 30/70 and small details, such as ears, elbows, and knees, included. The head is on a tilt, with relatively small eyes, and one hand is placed on the thigh, the other on the chest. The second type is generally heavier, having a 40/60 head/body ratio, with both hands on the thighs, and proportionately larger eyes.
Austin is an expert guide to the history and role of the prized jade art form and includes a large selection from the Te Papa collection - the largest in New Zealand, and possibly the world. Many are published here for the first time, including some with exalted histories of ownership, others by leading contemporary artists and carvers. Dougal Austin is Senior Curator Matauranga Maori at Te Papa and an acknowledged expert on the origins, development, cultural use, and significance of hei tiki. His current work has included a tour of the Kura Pounamu exhibition in China.
Howard Davis
Scoop Arts Editor
Educated at Cambridge and UCLA; worked on several major Hollywood feature films and as a Kundalini Yoga instructor in Los Angeles; currently enjoying life in Wellington.
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