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Te whakatuwheratanga o Te Tumu Herenga Waka : 6 Tihema 1986, Poneke, Te Whare Wananga o Wikitoria


page 42


(The following is a description of the methods and materials used to produce tukutuku panels).

Traditionally tukutuku was made with harakeke, pingao and kiekie. They were prepared for tukutuku work in the following ways:-

HARAKEKE: Common flax - This was soaked in hot water and then scraped with a shell.

PINGAO: This was washed and dried and then allowed to bleach naturally to a yellow colour. It was predominantly found in sand hills in the North Island.

KIEKIE: This was a preferred plant because it bleached whiter than flax. It was boiled then dried in the sun.

Dying of the flax and kiekie was carried out by placing the already scraped material into swamp mud — (paru), after it had been boiled with bark from the Hinau tree. It was left in the mud for a specified period of time. These materials were only gathered at certain times of the year and often came from other places.

Traditionally tukutuku panels were made from fern stalks and kakaho shafts, and in sometimes rimu or totara slats were also incorporated.

Today more durable and readily available materials are used as backing; and coloured rafia or leather are used in weaving. In Te Tumu Herenga Waka, flat slats, peg boards and leather are the materials that have been used.


Tawhaki had a son called Wahieroa, and Wahieroa had a son called Rata. Wahieroa was killed by Matuku. His death was avenged by his son Rata, who did this by snaring Matuku with a noose; the knot of which was his own invention. This knot has now become the basic tie in all tukutuku work.


KAOKAO: This pattern was dedicated to the warrior who came under the protection of the war God, Tumatauenga. This pattern was also known as 'takapau wharanui' which was used on all important marriage mats of older times.

POUTAMA: Poutama (step-like pattern) has both religious and educational meanings. The steps symbolise levels of attainment and advancement. At one time, Poutama was the only pattern used in tukutuku.

PATIKITIKI: This pattern is likened to the flounder and portrays favourable times. It is a familiar pattern on kete, whariki, tatua and taniko.

PURAPURA WHETU: This relates to the peopling and population of a region. It is the feature pattern of Rangiatea Church in Otaki. The symbolism of this is that the church and the Christian faith would be "as many as the stars in number". There is a proverb which expresses this sentiment:

Tini te whetu, ko Ngati Maru kei raro."

WAEWAE PAAKURA or TAKITORU: This design came from the secret message sent by Rongomaituaho to Paikea, and Paikea having received the message in the form of three angled stitches, tied them the opposite way and sent them back. It means to communicate.

WAHARUA: This pattern is also known as whenua. It has symbolic connections with the land and goes back to early times when the umbilical cord was buried on the land.

ROIMATA TOROA: Tears of an albatross. This pattern denotes misadventure, particularly to crops.

NIHO TANIWHA or NIHONIHO: Which literally means — teeth of the taniwha. It is also the sign of the historian. In some instances, it represents the chief and hospitality. It represents also, family houses within a tribe.

MUMU (Whanganui): The people of Whanganui specialise in this design. It portrays alliance and intermarriage between senior families.

POROURANGI: A design introduced by Sir Apirana Ngata, representing the famous ancestor Porourangi of the Tairawhiti district.

TE TUMU HERENGA WAKA: This pattern depicts the name of the Wharenui; 'the tying post of the canoes'.

page 43
Heeni Kerekere working on a tukutuku panel

Heeni Kerekere working on a tukutuku panel