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Contemporary Maori works added to the museum's cultural collections.

Examples of Maori containers and hand-woven bags (kete) in the Museum’s collections provide us with an opportunity to explore traditional Maori weaving technology and practices. But with only a limited sample of 12 Maori bags available, collected between 1892 and 1970, it was time to include contemporary examples that illustrate artistic and cultural continuity.

Supported by the Gwendoline West Bequest, we commissioned New Zealand artist Lisa Ward to produce baskets including kono (food baskets), kete whakairo (ornately patterned bags) and kete mahi (everyday bags).
Lisa is a skilled contemporary Maori weaver, acclaimed in Aotearoa, NZ, and internationally. Her weaving integrates traditional and contemporary processes into modern works.

‘My perception of raranga (weaving) is to not only to carry on this practice, but also ensure tikanga (customary concepts) and kawa (protocols) associated with the harvesting and preparation of harakeke (flax) are strengthened’, Lisa said. ‘If we want this art form to survive, we must learn not only the practical side but the spiritual side also.’

An insight

From a Maori perspective the kete lends itself to many cultural narratives as a receptacle of knowledge and wisdom. This ancient depiction is contained in the story of how Tane Mahuta, the God of Forest, obtained for all mankind the three kete of knowledge from Io, the supreme spiritual being.

This important cultural understanding applies to the term for leader, Rangatira (ranga, to weave; tira, a group). So a leader in a Maori context must have the ability to negotiate collective concerns and aspirations. In a modern sense, the kete enables a traditional practice to be meaningful to contemporary communities by rejuvenating their tribal knowledge related to the gathering, production, use and purpose to illustrate active value systems.

About the artist

Lisa Ward’s recent works are in keeping with strong cultural and spiritual origins which display artistry, complexity and colour. She has tribal affiliations which include Ngati Porou, Te Arawa, and Ngati Awa. Lisa was tutored by Sarni Scott, from the Te Arawa tribal confederation in NZ and Te Wananga o Aotearoa, an Indigenous NZ tertiary institution.

Weaving has been Lisa’s life and in the last 10 years she has shared her experiences and artwork nationally and internationally through workshops, commissions and exhibitions. She has exhibited a number of her works at Te Wananga o Aotearoa recently, and at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Lisa’s work can be found in collections across Australasia.

Dion Peita, Cultural Collections Coordinator