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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Te Whatu Tāniko - Tāniko Weaving: Technique and Tradition by Hirini Moko Mead

This standard reference work for distinctive Māori weaving returns in an attractive new edition. Tāniko is one of the supreme expressions of Māori art. Weving and dyeing the fibres of our native flax creates elaborate patterns, used to adorn clothing with distinctive styles that evolved over the years.

Te Whatu Tāniko presents the history and social context for weaving, as well as clear, practical guidelines for making tāniko. The book has been in print in various forms since 1952. This edition has been redesigned and includes a preface by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, the daughter of the author, and for whom the book has always been dedicated to.

Author Sir Hirini Moko Mead (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūhourangi) is an esteemed writer and scholar. With numerous books on Māori art to his name, he developed the first Department of Māori Studies in the country at Victoria University Wellington. He was knighted in 2009 for services to Māori and education.

As he states, the art of tāniko has not really become popular in New Zealand, but neither has it died out. The book, he states, provides a historical background and offered information for people keen to learn when no other book existed. In his preface he goes on to state that he hopes Māori women will produce books that present tāniko in "a more interesting way than I have done". After all, it is Māori women who "take command" of the taonga handed down from the female line.

While his sentiments and observations are valid, he is also incredibly humble. Te Whatu Tāniko is an immense book, not only in topic coverage but in importance.

The book features loads of clear and concise graphs and drawings to inspire and guide beginners or practicing weavers to create a range of beautiful patterns. Mead discussed the Māori 'costume' and how it has evolved over time. Different styles and classifications are discussed and explored, before the book dives into becoming something of an instructional manual. Detailed drawings, patterns and techniques are all covered.

A glossary, bibliography, and index all help the weaver, and reader, to deepen their understanding.

Mead's final words pose valid questions and challenge those reading it to ponder the next step in the evolution of tāniko.

A deeply important book that poses questions bigger than itself. I hope someone will take up Mead's challenge.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Oratia, RRP $45.


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