Ngā toi Māori (Māori arts and crafts)

Where can I find information about traditional Māori arts and crafts?

Entry last updated: 13/07/23

Introduction

The term Ngā toi Māori covers a very large range of different kinds of Māori art, from traditional practices to contemporary art. Some forms of Māori art share similarities with other parts of the Pacific but there are a lot of aspects that are unique to Aotearoa New Zealand. All the different kinds of art and craft have rich traditions and stories surrounding them.

Ngā toi Māori words

Here are some of the terms you may come across when researching this topic, but remember there are a lot of other different kinds of art, craft and tradition that can also fall under the heading of ngā toi Māori.

Whakairo: Carving of wood, stone or bone.
Raranga: A weaving style that can make rourou (food baskets) and kete (bags).
Whāriki: A plaiting technique, and the mats made from it.
Whatu: A finger weaving technique.
Whiri: A type of braiding that makes strips of material, often used for tātua (belts) or headbands.
Tāniko: A decorative method of weaving used to decorate the borders of clothing.
Tukutuku or arapaki: A decorative weaving method using reeds instead of threads.
Kōwhaiwhai: A painted scroll pattern, usually for decoration.

General websites

Have a look at these websites for information about ngā toi Māori.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • From the homepage, choose the section Creative and Intellectual Life.
  • Then choose Visual Arts.
  • Next you can look at several different pages, like Contemporary Māori art – ngā toi hōu, Ngā toi ana(rock art), Te raranga me te whatu (all sorts of weaving), and Whakairo – Māori carving.

To find out about crafts that were used in traditional games, including Manu tukutuku (kites), Karetao (puppets), Pōtaka (spinning tops) Tī rākau (stick games), poi and heaps more, follow this pathway.

Christchurch City Libraries

The librarians at Christchurch City Libraries have written a series of blogs about Māori arts and crafts. Here you can find lots of different Māori art and craft challenges, with instructions and information about each one.

  • Select Explore at the top of the page.
  • Next choose Te Ao Māori.
  • Once you are on that page, look down the side for the heading Te Ao Māori for tamariki.
  • Go down the page till you see the heading Crafts, then you can choose the craft you would like to look at, like making a putiputi, or Māori weaving for kids and te manu tukutuku (Māori kites for kids).

Christchurch City Libraries also has a page dedicated to Toi Māori, with information about whakairo, kōwhaiwhai, tā moko (tattoo), and raranga.

Toi Māori Aotearoa – Māori Arts New Zealand

This website is from an independent Māori arts organisation that promotes contemporary Māori art.

  • Have a look at the Toi Māori Gallery.
  • Select an exhibition for pictures and information for exhibitions they have held to display Māori art.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on this website. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Collections

On Te Papa's website you can find information on almost 800,000 artworks, objects and specimens from Te Papa’s collections.

  • Search the website using keywords, for example 'raranga' to find items in the museum's collection.
  • You can narrow down your search by selecting topic from the options on the left hand side, which can lead you to more information, such as this page on Raranga (plaiting).
  • Try different keywords to see what you can find.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

100% Pure New Zealand

This website has been put together for tourists coming to New Zealand to help them with their travels, and showcase Aotearoa. You can find some good information about Māori arts.

  • Search for 'Māori arts'.
  • Go to Toi: Māori Arts.
  • Find articles about whakairo, raranga, pounamu (greenstone), and tā moko.

Sound & Video

Here are some websites that have sound recordings or videos about ngā toi Māori.

DigitalNZ

DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.

Māori Television

Māori Television connects New Zealanders with Māori language and culture by showing a range of programmes.

  • Select On Demand to find videos available to watch.
  • Look down the page for Art and select View all.
  • Choose a show or documentary to watch.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

Ngāi Tahu are an iwi in Te Waipounamu (the South Island). Their website has a series of short documentaries about different Ngāi Tahu artists.

  • Select the Culture tab.
  • Then go to Ngā Ringa Toi o Tahu.
  • Choose an artist to watch a video about them, their art, and what inspires them.

Books

Have a look for some of these books, or ask your school or local librarian to help you find more.

SCIS no. 5402594

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