Making Kete Kupenga

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

For my final project and presentation, I made a flax fish net. I spent the entire day yesterday starting from harvesting flax to weaving the final product. So please follow me on my journey in making this piece of Maori ethnographic replica.

  1. Harvesting flax
    I went to the Otari-Wilton’s bush to harvest harakeke (flax). I learned that there are more than 60 types of flax from the botanical caretaker. He informed me that there’s two main categories of flax for weaving – one type where you weave just with the leaves and let it dry, and the other type where you get out the muka (fibre) to weave with them. Harvesting flax in the tradition fashion involves saying a karakia, cutting the flax diagonally, and being aware of the traditional ways. For example, not eating near the process/ always wash your hands is both a traditional idea and an important practice because you will get diarrhea from the plant if you don’t. When harvesting, you need to make sure you are not cutting the heart of the plant, so called “parents and the baby.” You can collect the outer, older leaves dubbed “grandparents” and older generations. I collected about 20 leaves from 2 different bushes to create my masterpiece.
  2. Making strips of flax
    I used a sheath that cuts the flax with equal-width strips. The technique entails cutting and pulling the edge with fibre. I wasn’t very good at it, but I tried my best! I made 100 strips and 80 got used for the basket. This process took about 3 hours in combination with step 3.
  3. Cleaning the edge to make fibre (muka)
    With each strip, I used the edge of a paua shell to get the fibre.
  4. Building a frame
    Making a small start plaid about 1cm, you continue weave by making sets of 4s braiding into the frame. Ideally you made it quite tight, but since this is only my first ever kete, I did not do this as well as I could.
  5. Weaving the kupenga (fish net) style knot
    I was the most excited about this part. For 4 hours straight, I just talked with my roommate and built the kete kupenga.
  6. Finishing
    At the end, the edges are plaided for the finish. I wanted to make handles but the fibre wasn’t long enough.

    Process of making it.