Weaving connections: Tokelau language week 2013

This week is Tokelau language week. The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Ko te au o mātua, ko fānau: At the core of a parents heart, are their children.” With the younger generation in mind, Te Papa staff are blogging daily with stories related to Tokelau and its treasures from Te Papa’s collections.

This kie tau was woven 22 years ago, but it still looks as good as new. Kie tau are a special type of fine mat that have an important ceremonial role in Tokelau society where they are worn and presented at weddings and used in burials. This kie tau was made in 1991 by the women of Ko Fatu Paepae o Lower Hutt – a Tokelau weaving group based in Lower Hutt, New Zealand.


The main body of this kie tau is made from heavily processed yet soft 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, keeping the connections with the home atolls alive. The kie tau is 2 metres long by 1.5 metres wide.

kie tau 2

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 local car assembly plant .

Although the materials have changed from the customary ones, the effort invested in processing the material, weaving it together, and using it in a culturally significant way still contributes to the value of the kie tau. The process of weaving keeps relationships between people strong; connections between Tokelau and New Zealand active and the creative minds of the weavers busy.

The kie tau was displayed in 1993 (the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage), in the exhibition Traditional Arts of Pacific Island Women held at the then Museum of New Zealand. Members of Ko Fatu Paepae o Lower Hutt who worked on the kie are recorded as Telesia Lino, Katalina Paselio, Maselina Pereira, Fetu Perez, Malia Sesale, Vito Koloi, Susana Koloi, Matalena Atonio, Valelia Lafaele, and Kolopa Isle.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)