BELOW RIGHT A piupiu or flax (harakeke- Phormium species) skirt. The plant is well known overseas as an ornamental; we grow a number of cultivars on our own property, but the main type used for weaving is the Swamp Flax (P tenax) - the leaves are longer and the fibres stronger. You'll find contemporary flax weavers across the ethnic spectrum, making everything from traditional garments to handbags to paper, and I wish the usefulness of this material was more widely known outside New Zealand.
It was really difficult to shoot in the frankly stygian conditions of the Tangata Whenua (indigenous) gallery, and if you're hell bent on taking pics in a dark institution, we advise three things: a piece of dark fabric you can whip out to abolish the reflections that will otherwise ruin your best shots, an early start to avoid the inevitable crowds, and a tri or monopod, so that you can avoid douchebag flashmonkey syndrome.
That being said, we generally enjoy low lux settings and were pleased with this lovely, almost lunar image of the intact Moa egg (left). It is an intensely beautiful and strangely satisfying object and it's nice to know that an enormous bird once thought the same way. Below: An Upland Moa.
Piupiu strands are cut lengthwise down the flax leaf and then relieved of their tough waxy coating at intervals so that the exposed fibres will take dye, resulting in the bands of contrasting colour and texture you see here. A resist-dyeing process, I suppose. The mellow golden hue is the natural colour of dried harakeke.
ABOVE An example of taaniko (fine weave) at the edge of a harakeke cloak. I am unsure as to the nature of the dyes involved but presume they are a mix of natural and synthetic.
RIGHT Kahu kurī - dogskin cloak. The Kuri was a Polynesian canine brought to NZ by maori from distant islands and became extinct around the end of the 19th C. Their skin was cut into strips and assembled into these chiefly garments, the possession and bestowal of which conferred tremendous mana or prestige. Despite the number of kuri who must have died in the commission of this item and my own deeply pro-dog conditioning, I find these robes oddly unprovocative. Perhaps for the same reason that I can't muster hate for vintage fur.