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Protector of Maori tradition

By Phoebe Falconer

Te Aue Takotoroa Davis
OBE, master weaver
Died aged 85

Te Aue Davis. Photo / Supplied.
Te Aue Davis. Photo / Supplied.

Te Aue Davis was a key figure in the renaissance of the Maori weaving movement. The enthusiasm for learning the craft was not in doubt, but the natural resources required were.

In 1985 Davis received a grant from Te Waka Toi, the Council for Maori and Pacific Arts, to compile an inventory of the materials required for traditional weaving.

"Our resources such as kiekie, pingao, harakeke, totara, kahikatea, pukatea and dye plants are endangered in many regions and dangerously scarce nationally," she said.

Davis (of Ngati Uekaha and Maniapoto) also targeted the Department of Labour and its skills supervisors for conservation education.

"In some areas the unskilled gathering of our resources ... has done almost as much damage as bulldozers."

She promoted the cultivation of scarce plants in gardens. She also worked extensively with the Department of Conservation to develop their understanding of the importance of artists having access to natural resources for the continuation of mahi harakeke.

This resulted in policy changes that allowed weavers access to plants and feathers from protected birds.

Davis' skills were significant in the preservation of Maori architecture. Her work included the restoration of old Maori cloaks (kakahu) including that belonging to the late Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

Davis' work featured on more recent kakahu as well, notably the one known as Te Mahutonga (Southern Cross), worn at Olympic Summer and Winter Games opening ceremonies by the team flagbearer. Davis, born and raised in Waitomo, is survived by her family.

- NZ Herald

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