Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Maori Textile

Bearded Man in a kākahu (by Albert
Percy Godber, Wikimedia Commons) 
The EXARC site ( has created a new subpage dedicated to articles about historical and archaeological textiles.  You can find that page on the EXARC site, here.  

One of the recent featured articles is about a recreation of a Maori ornamental band.  It looks superficially like a tablet-woven band, but is actually worked in a technique called tāniko, which does not use tablets at all.  Instead it is a kind of weft-twining, where strands are twined or twisted around warp threads--more like sprang, or a basket making technique than like the weaving with which most of us are familiar.  Tāniko was used to make the ornamental band that edged a kākahu, a special cloak made for people of high rank.  

The band discussed in the EXARC article is from a cloak known as the Stockholm cloak, from the location of the museum that now houses it--the Ethnographical Museum of Sweden.  The cloak was collected during Captain James Cook's first visit to Aotearoa, the "big island" of New Zealand, in 1769 and thus is over 200 years old. The article about the Maori band can be found here, and some useful information about textile crafts in New Zealand can be found in the on line Encyclopedia of New Zealand, here.  

The photograph that appears with this post shows a man wearing a kākahu, though not the one in Stockholm.

During the Migration Period, Scandinavians used tablet weaving to create borders for the cloaks of their chieftains; the Hogom textile was such a garment.  And although the weft-twined band on the Stockholm cloak was made by a different technique, it features a geometric pattern (see pictures in the EXARC article) that any early European chief would have appreciated.  People are people, and they enjoy badges of honor in the form of expensive and unusual clothing, no matter where they are from.


  1. This is fantastic. Despite being a kiwi, and being vagely aware that traditional Maori textiles were twined, I didn't know how the process worked. It really does look a lot like tablet weaving. Fun fact: traditionally, the Maori did not ret their flax. Oh no. You obtain the muka by scraping flax leaves with a mussel shell or knife, and take it from me, it's an extremely difficult, labour intensive process. I've tried it, once.

    1. Wow. Scraping like that sounds much harder than retting! Thanks for the info!

    2. Yes, it's hard work and very time consuming, and as you can imagine it requires both skill and practice.