Qualification in traditional methods

The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) in Rotorua offers a tohu (qualification) in traditional methods that is unique and incomparable to any other training, both globally and New Zealand wide. The exclusive courses offered by NZMACI celebrate sustainability, the environment and Māori tradition, history, art and culture. 


As kaitiaki (guardians), NZMACI has knitted together an integration of traditional methods and Māori culture into its wānanga (schools). It has the responsibility to preserve, promote and perpetuate Māori arts and crafts and as a recipient and guardian of a strong nationally focused cultural legacy, NZMACI has been able to position itself at the forefront of Māori cultural representation, locally, nationally and internationally.


In this vein, all of its schools and tourism offerings incorporate a range of traditional and contemporary sculpting, carving, weaving and artistic techniques; alongside, the use of a variety of tools and practical long-established methods of design.


Examples of how NZMACI has bought traditional Māori arts and cultural techniques into the 21st century can be seen throughout all its wānanga.


At te takapū (stone and bone carving), students learn the revered tradition of carving pounamu (greenstone), bone and stone.


NZMACI’s whakairo rākau (wood carving), provides students with skills in carving wharenui (meeting houses). Many of the prominent wharenui throughout New Zealand were carved by the men who were part of the first wānanga whakairo intake in 1927. Today’s graduates continue to build and restore wharenui throughout the country, under the guidance of master carvers from the first intake, telling stories of history through this traditional craftsmanship.


Traditionally, te rito (weaving) was taught within families, usually by a mother, grandmother or aunt. There are strict protocols and restrictions included in the discipline, which NZMACI upholds in order to maintain the integrity of te rito knowledge. The history of weaving connects to the spiritual world through the whakapapa (genealogies) of the natural materials from which furniture, cloaks and garments are woven. The weaver was one of the most important parts of Māori communities.


Aitia te wahine i roto i te pā harakeke.

Marry the woman found in the flax bush.


From birth, a girl of aristocratic lineage was initiated into the art of weaving. The life force of the weaver, materials and plants harvested for weaving has always been protected by rituals and protocol.


Muka, is the inner fibre extracted from the long leaves of the harakeke (New Zealand flax) and is the preferred material for weaving. Māori traditionally weaved by hand, using the finger weft twinning technique, whatu, for making traps and fish nets. This technique was adapted slightly to also create garments. These methods are a uniquely Māori invention, demonstrating the nature of Aotearoa’s inspiration for incredible thinking and ingenuity, that drives innovation and productivity.


The te ahi kōmau (bronze foundry), a workshop for casting metal, sees artists at the foundry push the limits of the material, including its ability to capture the finest elements of carving.


Bronze has a long history in New Zealand, including bronze patu (clubs), which were traded with Māori on Captain James Cook’s second voyage to New Zealand between 1772 and 1775. Other than the refinement in some of the processes, little has changed.

The casting process begins with a silicone mould taken of a wooden carving, with wax then poured into the mould and once set, removed and encased in a ceramic shell. The wax is melted and removed, before the bronze is poured. Once the bronze is set, the ceramic shell is removed, revealing the new bronze artwork. This is a process unique to Rotorua.

The bronze foundry also celebrates the natural environment and the gift of geothermal. Casters use the unique natural environment in Te Whakarewarewa Valley, taking water from the sulphur-chloride pools to patina the bronze. Here the elements come alive and natural treasures become everlasting memories, crafted into symbolic sculptures and art forms.

Te Puia l NZMACI continues to pride itself as an institution of historic and cultural significance. It is through these works that we continue to preserve and celebrate Māori culture and the traditional methods of the arts and crafts.