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The Coming of the Maori

The Evolution of Technique

The Evolution of Technique

The various techniques used in the manufacture of Maori clothing have been dealt with at some length to stress the fact that technical processes must be studied in detail before we can fully appreciate the affinities with other areas and, above all, realize the adaptations, changes and actual inventions which have taken place in the local development of the craft. Though the Maori craftsmen have been progressive in making improvements and developing new processes, as proved by the great variety of garments, they were also conservative in retaining old processes for specific uses. It must be borne in mind that garments for rough wear continued to be useful and it would have been inappropriate as well as a waste of time to use carefully prepared material and later techniques and decoration on such garments. Thus the rain capes for rough use and for commoners continued to be made of roughly scutched warps and coarse wefts in the single-pair twine for some time after the advent of Europeans. Other types of rain capes showed improvement in material but retained the single-pair twine. The rain cloak showed its origin as a lengthened rain cape by also retaining the single-pair twine. Though exceptions occur, the great majority of rain cloaks kept the single-pair twine because usage had made it the correct technique for that type of cloak.

The dress cloaks with tags, feathers, and other ornamentation were made with the two-pair weft which usage again rendered the correct technique for such garments. The use of the single-pair twine with a feather cloak would have been regarded not only as poor but as ignorant workmanship. Similarly, it would have been incongruous to use the wide taniko border with dogskin cloaks when their own type of border had become established. It would have been an error to add taniko borders to tag or feather cloaks, since fashion had also established a special kind of page 177cloak to bear that particular kind of decoration. It would have detracted from the value of the taniko borders if feathers and tags were attached to the plain bodies of the cloaks which had been specially designed to show off the taniko decoration. Though various anomalies were perpetrated in modern times, it is fortunate that there were old people living who remembered that their grandparents would not have countenanced them. It was the avoidance of mixing techniques that perpetuated the manufacture of the older types of capes and cloaks by their original techniques and so provided a record of the rich variety of techniques that were developed in New Zealand. Tradition is silent as to who introduced the inventions and when. However, the garments themselves tell us what did occur but to understand them, we must learn their language as expressed through the minute details of technique.