I’ve always have had a love with the old cloaks our ancestors once wore. The workmanship and the detail of the tāniko is so beautiful and the designs are so compelling to me. There was a great variety of garments, including many kinds of cloaks. Clothing, adornments and even hairstyles showed a lot about a person’s status, and fine clothes (cloaks) could enhance mana. I love the fact that the cloaks were worn with pride.
These are some tāniko patterns that spoke to me, not only by there beauty but also fascinated by the person that last wore it. My first tāniko painting has a unique history belonged to a woman of high status who had considerable mana, Ruhia Pōrutu. Her cloak she wore was a kaitaka paepaeroa (fine flax cloak with vertical weft rows and tāniko borders). I loved the simple design of the tāniko pattern and particularly the story behind the cloak. I wanted to create something that was precise to that actual pattern and colour of the tāniko design, I’m pleased with how it looked and inspired me to paint more tāniko boarder patterns from the cloaks of our ancestors.
I’ve painted 3 so far and will continue to paint more. I’m looking at doing limited edition prints of these taniko paintings… I have orders already.
Ruhia Pōrutu was the daughter-in-law of Te Rīrā Pōrutu, paramount chief of Te Āti Awa in what is now central Wellington. She is seen here wearing her kaitaka paepaeroa, but the artist (Gottfried Lindauer) has placed it upside down so that the elaborate tāniko border is visible. In 1840 Te Riria's people were building a house for a New Zealand Company lawyer, and it was tapu while under construction. A newly arrived teenage immigrant named Thomas McKenzie unwittingly entered the house, breaking tapu. The chief was about to strike him down with his mere (club) when Ruhia threw her cloak over the young man, saving his life.
I fell in love with this cloak below, when I first saw it. After doing a little research I found out that Te Hapuku was Ngāti Kahungunu iwi... my iwi. When I realised we were connected, I had to paint it.
A little insight of Te Hapuku, who sometimes called himself Te-Ika-Nui-O-Te-Moana, was born in the late eighteenth century before the coming of the European to our region of Heretaunga. He was a chief of our Ngai Te Whatuiapiti tribe and his main hapu (sub tribes) were Ngati Te Manawakawa and Ngati Rangikoianake. He had kinship links within Ngati Kahungunu, Rangitane, Ngati Ira and other tribes throughout the Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa regions, and was therefore very influential. His father was Kurimate, also known as Te Rangikoianake II, and his mother was Tatari of the Ngati Tapuhara and Ngati Hinepare sub tribes of Ngati Kahungunu.
In 1839 Te Hapuku visited the Bay of Islands in the Far North and on 25 September he signed the 1835 Declaration of Independence of New Zealand. In June 1840 therefore Major Bunbury called at Hawke's Bay to obtain his signature on the Treaty of Waitangi which had been signed at Waitangi on 6 February 1840. Te Hapuku and his two kinsmen, Hoani Waikato and Harawira Mahikai, signed the Treaty on or about 24 June 1840.
With the coming of the Pakeha (European) government to our region in 1851 Te Hapuku established contact with many government officials and was instrumental in selling lands to the government. He was acquainted with both Donald McLean, the chief land purchase agent, and with the Governor, Sir George Grey. He used the proceeds of his land sales to establish farming, milling, shipping and other businesses to support his large tribe.
He was also the prime instigator of a gift of lands by our tribe, Ngai Te Whatuiapiti, to the Anglican Church for the establishment of a school to educate Maori pupils. Te Aute College was established by the Church in 1854.
This tāniko pattern is from a Kaitaka huaki (cloak with double tāniko boarders) I’ve painted the top tāniko pattern of this cloak and I’ll will possibly paint the bottom tāniko pattern another day. Tureiti Te Heuheu Tukino was a notable New Zealand tribal leader and politician.