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The Coming of the Maori

Rectilinear Art

Rectilinear Art

In plaiting, weaving, and lattice work, the art motifs and patterns were structurally confined to a rectilinear form by the technique of the craft which employed them. In plaiting, the direction of the wefts, both plain and coloured, was of necessity oblique to the commencement edge. Hence oblique bands, zigzag bands, triangles, lozenges, and hour-glass figures formed of triangles, apex to apex, were the forms of the main motifs.

In weaving, however, the crossings determined by technique, ran in horizontal rows at right angles to the left commencement edge. It would have been easy enough to weave horizontal or vertical bands and squares but curiously enough such motifs were not used. In the narrow bands of dogskin cloaks, the nearest approach to squares or rectangles had their sides parallel but oblique in direction to form rhomboids. In the wider bands of taniko work, the motifs were oblique bars, zigzag bars, triangles, lozenges, and hour-glass figures, as in plaiting, though they were produced differently. It is, therefore, reasonable to infer that the oblique direction enforced in the earlier craft of plaiting exercised an art influence on weaving so that oblique lines were adopted to the exclusion of vertical lines and squares in the development of taniko work.

In lattice work, vertical and horizontal rows were utilized and also combined to form the popular step pattern but oblique lines were also used to form zigzags, triangles, and lozenges.

In the three crafts reviewed, the technique did not permit the production of curved lines. In carving, painting, and tattooing, the craftsmen were free of the technical limitations imposed by sets of interlacing elements and were free to extend their lines in any direction on the surface they were working on.