What’s in a Name? The Practice and Politics of Classifying Māori Textiles
Smith, Catherine Ann; Laing, Raechel M
Textiles form an important part of Māori culture, of interest to Europeans since contact with New Zealand in 1642. The need to describe Māori textiles in English has determined the terminology chosen to describe them, and also affected understandings of Māori weaving. Ethnographic observation and recording of Māori textile production by European non-weavers, inaccurate translation of Māori words, as well as incorrect use of terms have all contributed to difficulties in understanding Māori textile structures. The development of current terminology for describing Māori textiles is discussed, highlighting how it arises as a result of temporal, cultural and political factors, and the consequent importance of names. The values implicit in names given to Māori textiles then affect knowledge, scholarship and communication of their attributes. One Māori textile form, rāranga, illustrates how basing classification on structure alone could clarify understanding, remove implicit value judgements, and enable accurate communication of the properties of artefacts.
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Keywords: Maori textiles; Classification; Material culture
Research Type: Journal Article
This is a pre-print version of the article