Tokelau kie tau (fine mat) with an edge

This week is the inaugural Tokelau Language Week (29 October – 4 November). The theme is Ke mau ki pale o Tokelau: Hold fast to the treasures of Tokelau. To celebrate, the Pacific Cultures team will post a blog each day highlighting cultural treasures from Tokelau in Te Papa’s collections.

Kie Tau (fine mat); FE010246; Purchased 1993 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds; Te Papa

Kie Tau (fine mat); FE010246; Purchased 1993 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds; Te Papa

For today’s blog, I would like to focus on this kie tau (fine mat) which was made around 1991 by Telesia Lino, Katalina Paselio, Maselina Pereira, Fetu Perez, Malia Sesale, Vito Koloi, Susana Koloi, Matalena Atonio, Valelia Lafaele, and Kolopa Isle. The makers were members of the Ko Fatu Paepae o Lower Hutt – a Tokelau weaving group based in Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Because of the combination of customary and synthetic materials used in the making of this kie tau, it was acquired by the museum to feature in the exhibition Traditional Arts of Pacific Island Women (1993). The main body of this kie is made from heavily processed lau kie (pandanus leaf), with a border pattern and decorative motifs in lau hulu (brown pandanus). Both varieties of pandanus were imported to New Zealand from Tokelau.

An interesting feature of this kie tau is the thick outer fringe made from synthetic material. It is very similar in appearance to the kanava bark fibre found in Tokelau, but it was actually obtained from packing case material from a car assembly plant in New Zealand. The kie tau measures 2000mm in length by 1510mm wide. Hand-woven fine mats like this are worn and presented at special occasions such as weddings, and continue to have a significant cultural role in Tokelauan communities, whether in New Zealand or in Tokelau.

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