Tuesday, June 23, 2009
If you’ve ever been to a Maori kapa haka performance, you’ll be familiar with that lovely clicking sound that the traditional piupiu (skirt) makes as the performers move. Made of dried harakeke (flax), each piupiu requires a great deal of time and fiddly effort. When I visited Te Puia at Rotorua recently I watched a group of women making them in the Arts & Crafts Centre (below images), so by the time I got to Whakarewarewa Thermal Village and saw these piupiu for sale in one of the family craft outlets, I had a much better understanding of just how detailed the process is.
Once the fresh flax has been cut to the required length, each leaf is marked with a piece of shell, or a knife, to designate the areas of darker pattern on the end garment. The shiny green leaf surface above and below the dark area is then scrapped off to reveal the inner fibre. Traditionally the flax was dyed – often in dark mud (containing iron oxide) and then set in a mix of pounded hinau bark and water. Once the dying process is completed, the dyed leaves are hung to dry (as above). That’s when the normal part of the leaf curls into a hard, straw-like cylinder (which makes the clicking noise during movement). The leaves are then woven together at the top to form a skirt. www.tepuia.com www.whakarewarewa.com