Māori Kete Baskets
During Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, we feature objects from Asia and the Pacific in the Maxwell's collections.
Kete are traditional carrying baskets woven from plant materials. Made and used by New Zealand's Māori people, kete continue to be an important part of Māori culture today. Although utilitarian, kete have important symbolism for Māoris, as they represent a container of knowledge and wisdom. In this way they are a symbol of the resilience of the Māori people.
The two miniature baskets were woven by Winika Tuhiwai. The small size of these baskets is a testament to the weaver’s skill. Small baskets such as these are often used as gift containers.
The large basket, the size of a large handbag, was woven by Dale Farris of the Ngati Porou iwi. Iwi are the largest social units in Māori society. Ngati Porou is the second largest iwi by population and is based on the Northern Island of New Zealand. Each iwi (“tribe”) contains a number of hapū ("sub-tribes") and whānau ("family").
These kete baskets are made of flax (harakeke), flax fiber (muka), and sedge grass (pingao). New Zealand flax (Phormium sp.) is an important focus of Māori culture. In Māori songs and stories, flax is often a metaphor for family bonds and interrelationships. To learn more about the use of flax by the Māori people, visit this site: https://teara.govt.nz/en/flax-and-flax-working/page-2
And to learn more about Māori weaving, check out these resources: