Read in: French
It was in the city of Rotorua, amid the smoking valleys of Te Puia that are located the famous national schools of weaving and wood carving of New Zealand. These schools were created in order to preserve traditional Maori art. Te Puia is a very touristic place because you have to pay to go on site and see the students at work, but there is no denying that it is still an extraordinary place to discover great talents.
Let me start with the weaving school. There, the students, mainly women of all ages, work in a large room open to the public’s eye. My admiration when straight to those who were working on huge cloaks in feathers, that will be used in traditional ceremonies and dance performances. It is an incredible work of delicacy and patience. One of them told me it took her 6 months to make such an artwork, and she only had 2 more months of work to finish it. She told me this with a broad smile on her face, but I could sense a certain strain of anxety in her eyes… Today she’s probably done with her work and very proud.
Other students were working on “piu piu”, traditional skirts made of long tubes made entirely out of flax leaves. The technique for making them is quite extraordinary. First, geometrical patterns are scratched onto the surface of the leaves, which reveals the fibers inside. Then, we dip the leaves in boiling water. The leaves will roll up in the heated water and turn into thin pipes. We can then dye the tube by dipping them in a tub of natural pigments. And there, like magic, only the geometrical patterns carved into the fiber appear in color. The tubes are then fixed together to a belt, often made out of flax as well.
Now, the wood sculpting. Same as the weaving school, the students work right front of us. This time, they are mainly men, and the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed. There is pop music playing in the background, the students are sculpting into huge blocks of wood, mainly to serve as decorations on the façades and inside the marae.
Their website: here !