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Te Arawa Fibre Arts

Te Arawa


Te Arawa people encountered a huge change in climate when they arrived in Aotearoa. Imagine how much colder it was than in Hawaiki (the warmer climate of the Pacific) where they had come from!  (Learn about Hawaiki using the link below.)


Many of the plants they brought with them did not live through the harsh winters. In order to survive they had to look to the land around them. Feathers and fibre provided comfort and filled practical needs.


They found that harakeke could be woven into a range of practical objects including whariki (woven mat) and kete (basket). The art of weaving is now called raranga. The muka (fibre) from harakeke was woven into long fine cloaks using double pair twining. They could be adorned with feathers to provide extra warmth.


Within some four generations of arriving from Hawaiki, Te Arawa had settled in the Rotorua lakes area, taking advantage of geothermal heat.


By the 1860’s Te Arawa people wore European clothing and kākahu (traditional clothes) were used for special occasions. The art of making kākahu is kept alive today, mostly by women, who in turn teach new generations of weavers.


Piupiu (a piece of clothing like a skirt) are made from blades of harakeke. The green outer layer is scraped away with a mussel shell and the blade is soaked in paru (black natural mud dye). The blades curl as they dry.


The whenu (warp) are attached to a tuturu (weaving frame). Aho (warp threads) are made from four strands of muka. Fine strong weaving such as whariki, tukutuku panels and kete can be made from kiekie, an epiphyte (air plant) that grows in trees.


Patterned kete are called kete whakairo. Taniko is a geometric finger-woven pattern often found on the borders of fine kākahu.

Qualities: innovation, diligence, wellbeing

Here’s a tip:

Want to know more about Hawaiki?  Check out this entry from Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Te Ara is a great place to get trustworthy information for your assignments and homework about New Zealand

topics and you can read it in either Te Reo Māori or English!

Watch more here:

About one of Rotorua’s most important weavers Emily Rangitiaria Schuster:


Read more here:

Learn about the Te Rito, The National Weaving School based at New Zealand Māori Arts and Craft Institute Ngā Kete Tuku Iho:


Available from Rotorua Library:


Pū manawa: A Celebration of Whatu, Raranga and Tāniko, by Megan Tamati-Quennell

Kakahu: Māori Cloaks, by Mick Prendergast

Te Whatu Taniko: Taniko Weaving: Technique and Tradition, by Sidney M. Mead


This entry is related to these other entries:

Emily Schuster; Adrienne Whitewood & Ahu



Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa

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