The art of kete weaving as an integral part of Maori culture… Six new creative stamps released by New Zealand Post

May 11th, 2016

The practice of weaving kete has been an integral part of Maori culture for generations. Traditionally fulfilling a functional requirement, today kete have developed into a contemporary art form. To underline the uniqueness of this art New Zealand Post has released six philatelic items comprising the 2016 Matariki stamp issue that examines the art form of kete; its origin, development and significance to te ao Māori (the Māori world). invites our readers to appreciate the original design of these six interesting stamps.

The origins of kete can be linked back to the widely known tradition of ngā kete o te wānanga, commonly coined as the three baskets of knowledge. The three baskets of knowledge contain all that is required to live in te ao türoa (the environment), and oral traditions recount either Täne or Tāwhaki as the retriever of the baskets. One was indeed a god, the other a mere mortal with godlike attributes.

Functionally, kete are containers ‒ receptacles for gathering and housing what is considered necessary for the task at hand. A treasured Mäori art form passed down through the generations, kete are most commonly weaved from flax due to its durability, but contemporary artists are pushing the boundaries of kete design, with Matthew McIntrye Wilson's piece created from silver and copper.

$1.00 ‒ Cori Marsters stamp

At 11 years old Cori trained in the art of tāniko (to embellish) with his kuia (grandmother) Gail Shaw. Instrumental in Cori's foray into whatu (warp and weft weaving), she taught him to extract flax fibre and spin by hand. His kete tāniko is reminiscent of a genre of basket created around the early 1900s. Executed to the edge of excellence using natural vegetable dyes and threads, the niho taniwha (serpent's teeth) and waewae parerā (ducks-feet) are the focal patterns.

$1.00 ‒ Pip Devonshire stamp

Pip began weaving in 1986 and it is no surprise she is a natural. Her kuia Rangimahora Reihana-Mete and Ranginui Parewahawaha Leonard were renowned for their expertise in raranga (sinestral and dextral) and whatu, with a penchant for blending new ideas with traditional forms. Pip also displays a naturalness for and ease in creating mixed traditional and non-traditional forms. She has elevated her kete whiri (basket with plaited bottom) from being practical and functional to sculptural and three-dimensional.

$1.80 ‒ Te Atiwei Ririnui stamp

Taught by his koroua (elder) who instilled in him a love for this art form, Te Atiwei thrives on aspiring to scale the summits of excellence in raranga (plaiting) and whatu (twining). The combination of his passion and drive to excel is what makes him a formidable weaver. The poutama (male lineage) design is difficult to execute and here, Te Atiwei displays mastery and control of the form.

$2.20 ‒ Audra Potaka stamp

Weaving since 1998 and immensely proud of her Ngāti Mutunga heritage, Audra experimented, creating a unique design embodying her maunga (mountain), Taranaki. Its non-compliance with a symmetrical form displays subtle nuances of peaks. In addition to Taranaki, toroa (royal albatross) feathers are subtly placed, providing balance. The two symbols in this kete epitomise the narrative of an enduring people, making it unique and distinctive.

$2.70 ‒ Matthew McIntyre Wilson stamp

Matthew has been working with Māori weaving techniques and forms for a number of years, having been inspired by weaver and friend Rangi Kiu. Matthew has become renowned amongst the weaving fraternity for weaving kete from silver and copper retrieved from discarded materials. While the materials often present a perfect consistent gauge, it is his mastery of the aramoana (navigate the ocean) design, and designs in general, that makes his work exciting and exemplary.

$3.30 ‒ Sonia Snowden stamp

Sonia is a popular, experienced and respected weaver in te ao Māori. Suffice to say her delicate pieces are nothing short of excellent. The name of her kete is Tātai whetu ki te rangi, clusters of stars in the heavens. It is an outstanding example of finesse and femininity, making an extremely difficult and complex design look fluid and simple, elevating the kete to the precipice of brilliance.

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