Harakeke keteUniquely Aotearoa - explore Māori skills and traditions

Hundreds of years of passing on traditions, skills, arts and crafts has resulted in the rich Māori culture that is a fundamental part of New Zealand life today.

Successive generations of Māori have taught each other language, performance, weaving and carving skills. The evidence is everywhere the beautiful whare whakairo (carved meeting houses), the performance of the haka before major sporting events and the skilfully designed Māori crafts.

In the decades after the European settlers first arrived, much of traditional Māori life was lost. In recent years, however, there has been a revival of Māori culture, language and custom. To ensure these unique arts and crafts survive, Māori are willing to share their knowledge with locals and visitors interested in learning more. There is a great demand for traditional Māori art, craft and performance and the courses teaching these traditional skills.

With no written language of their own, pre-European Māori passed on tribal history and the stories of the gods by using many forms of fine arts and crafts ranging from basket and cloth weaving to complex wood, bone, shell and jade carving. The artefacts were handed down through generations of tribal elders and became Taonga (sacred objects or treasures).

Māori crafts in Christchurch

Community Information Christchurch (CINCH) lists courses on the following subjects:


There are three main forms of Māori carving using either wood, bone or Pounamu.

Intricate wood carvings can be found on meeting houses and marae throughout the country, created by master carvers. The carvings tell each tribe’s story and tales of important historical and mythological ancestors. Wood carving is also used to create waka (canoes), certain weapons and musical instruments.

Bone carving (traditionally from whale bone, but nowadays from beef bone) is another important art form. Bone carvings are mainly used for jewellery and specific shapes are used to symbolise certain things.

Performing arts

Kapa haka is a unique style of performing arts in that it combines song, dance, facial expressions and movements. It could be seen as sign language, as each action has a meaning. Browse the Internet Gateway for kapa haka websites.

Harakeke (flax weaving)

Māori also used flax weaving to pass on stories and history. The first Polynesians brought the art of weaving and plaiting to New Zealand. Weaving techniques were adapted to suit the climate and New Zealand flax (phormium tenax) used to make baskets, floor mats, skirts, cloaks and decorations. There are more than fifty different varieties of the New Zealand flax, and Māori know the advantages of each type of flax for its respective use.


Māori or Te Reo Māori has its origins in East Polynesia. The language is closely related to Tahitian and Cook Islands Māori and to a lesser degree to Hawaiian and Marquesan. In recent years, the use of Māori has become more prevalent and people are working hard to ensure the language is preserved.

Library resources