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The Coming of the Maori



Simple decoration in mats and baskets was obtained by changing the stroke. A check background was enhanced by running horizontal or vertical rows of twill across the surface at regular intervals. By changing the number of wefts crossed, successively from one to five, geometrical figures such as triangles and lozenges were produced. Various patterns became established and received specific names. The decoration was structural.

A more marked effect was produced by the use of colour. In Polynesia, page 303wefts from darker coloured pandanus leaf were arranged to form oblique stripes or wider bands, parallel or crossing, on the background of lighter coloured wefts. For geometrical motives, however, the coloured wefts were treated with a black dye. In this technique, the coloured wefts were foundation wefts, and the coloured patterns showed in reverse on the under side of the mat or the inner side of the basket. The use of dyed foundation wefts for decoration was present in Samoa and Tonga. In New Zealand, the foundation wefts of flax or kiekie were dyed black by soaking
Fig. 87. Some plaiting patterns.a, kowhiti whakapae (horizontal twill); b, whakanihoniho (toothed); c, papaka (crab); d, reverse of c.

Fig. 87. Some plaiting patterns.
a, kowhiti whakapae (horizontal twill); b, whakanihoniho (toothed); c, papaka (crab); d, reverse of c.

them in an infusion of bark (usually hinau) and then immersing them in the black mud of a swamp as in the process of dyeing flax fibre for weaving. Various designs in twill were produced in wide, oblique bands on sleeping mats (Fig. 87); and in post-European times, satchels were covered with designs in black and white. See Plates VI and VII.

Another technique in producing coloured decoration was by overlaying thin coloured strips on the foundation wefts to produce geometrical motifs. In Hawaii, the coloured strips were obtained from the reddish-brown sheath enveloping the lower ends of the sedge (makaloa) from which the mats were made. In the Cook Islands, the separated upper layer of pandanus leaves was dyed black or red and split into strips of the same width as the foundation wefts upon which they were laid to produce various designs (99, p. 408). In New Zealand, flax leaves were separated into two layers in the process of preparing fibre. The thinner upper layer page 304could have been dyed and used in overlaid decoration quite well but evidently the dyed foundation weft technique was preferred. However, the plaited maro from the Chatham Islands, in the Dominion Museum, has decorative strips of darker flax overlaid on the foundation wefts as described by Duff (31, p. 214) and a fragment of fine plaiting obtained from a rock shelter by the Waitaki River in the South Island has a decorative band of overlaid darker flax. Thus overlaid plaiting was present in two marginal areas, which forms evidence that it was an earlier form of decoration which was supplanted in the North Island by the use of coloured foundation wefts.