Raranga - the art of weaving

 

Hutia te rito o te harakeke
Kei hea te komako e ko
Ki mai ki ahau
He aha te mea nui i te ao
Maku e ki atu
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

If the center shoot of the flax is pulled out
(and the flax dies)
Where will the bellbird sing
If you were to ask me
What is the most important thing in the world
I would reply
It is a person, a person, a person
(that is, each and every person).

 

The woven flax in this website

This weaving technique is called raranga. The pattern used as a full page background and sidebar in this website is from a woven kete harakeke (flax basket) given to the webmaster by Ani Crawford of the Ngati Porou iwi / tribe. It is common for a new weaver to give her first article to a friend or relative. This was Ani's first kete / basket and she honoured me by giving it to me for my birthday.

Like the webmaster, well-used and worn, the kete is now ready to be hung on the wall as a memento, and as a treasured work of art. I gift it to you, as it was gifted to me.

 

Symbolism

"Maori weaving is full of symbolism and hidden meanings. embodied with the spiritual values and beliefs of the Maori people."

- Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, 1989.

"Weaving is more than just a product of manual skills. From the simple rourou food basket to the prestigious kahu kiwi [kiwi feather cloak], weaving is endowed with the very essence of the spiritual values of Maori people. The ancient Polynesian belief is that the artist is a vehicle through whom the gods create".

- Erenora Puketapu-Hetet 1989 p2

"Of all the Maori weaving techniques, raranga is the one that has best survived colonisation. It also has the strongest links with Pacific Island weaving".

- Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, 1989, p44.

 

The sybolism and hidden meanings are contained in the many patterns, both ancient and modern, used in the many forms of weaving, and in the fibres themselves.

For Maori, raranga is also a powerful symbol that evokes tribal memories of the ancestors and the arts they brought with them to Aotearoa / New Zealand, and that the ancestors passed down to us. A living art and a living symbol that has survived with us, our language and culture, and that moves with us beyond the temporary setbacks of the colonial era.

The kete itself has power as a symbol for a container of knowledge and wisdom. This is an ancient symbolism contained in the story of how Tane-te-Wananga obtained for all mankind the three kete of knowledge from Io, the supreme spiritual power.

Raranga is still in use in every day household products, and is living symbolic proof that our culture has survived.

In many ways the kete / basket, carried now by many Maori men and women in lieu of purses, handbags and briefcases, has become a symbol of liberation from the shackles of an alien Western European culture which has tried for two hundred years to submerge, and at times to obliterate, all traces of Maori culture.

Raranga evokes all these feelings. And it evokes strong feelings of unity and togetherness; the weaving together of the people into their families and tribes and into the Maori nation, and spiritually, the weaving together of all of creation into a single indivisible living wholeness.

Raranga also serves as a symbol for this website; the gradual weaving together of many strands of information, insight and knowledge into a story of the Maori people of Aotearoa / New Zealand..

 

Bibliography

Prendergast, Mick, "Te Mahi Kete: Maori basketry for beginners", Reed Books, Auckland, 1975, 1986, reprinted 1991.

Prendergast, Mick, "Fun with Flax: 50 projects for beginners", Reed Methuen, Auckland, 1987.

Prendergast, Mick, "Raranga Whakairo: Maori plaiting patterns", Coromandel Press, 1984.

Prendergast, Mick, "The Fibre Arts", in Te Awekotuku, Ngahuia, et al., "Maori Art and Culture", David Bateman Ltd, Auckland, 1996.

Prendergast, Mick, "Feather and Fibre", Reed Methuen, Auckland, 1984.

Puketapu-Hetet, Erenora (with), "Maori Weaving", Pitman Publishing, Auckland, 1989.

Mead, Sidney Moko, "The Art of Taniko Weaving", Reed, Wellington, 1968, reprinted 1973.

Toi Maori - Maori Arts

rhimona@maorinews.com


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