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The Coming of the Maori


page 302

The Maori Craftsmen in Selecting Material and Using particular techniques were primarily concerned in producing necessary and useful articles. However, when they introduced coloured elements into plaiting and into weaving and added carved patterns to objects of wood, bone, and stone, they did not improve the utility of the articles but they derived pleasure from applying decoration to the useful objects which they made. The results obtained came under the category of art. Maori art, as pointed out by Page Rowe (62, p. 8), was applied art which was decorative in intention. Thus skilled craftsmen were also artists. The artists who dealt with soft flexible material such as flax leaves and flax fibre in plaiting and weaving were women. The artists who applied their skill to wood, bone, and stone were men. Though flax was used in the decorative panels of houses, the decoration was applied by men for no women could enter a new house until the tapu was removed by a special ceremony on its completion. The painting of wood in house rafters and the tattooing of the human form were conducted by men. Artist-craftsmen occupied a high social position and were well rewarded for their skill. The great development in wood carving led to the establishing of definite schools of art in various tribal districts.