Illustrating Te Rā

By Aroha Mitchell, Weaver / Independent artist

Ko Ngongotahā tōku maunga

Ko Utuhina tōku awa

Ko Ngati Whakaue tōku hapu

Ko Te Arawa tōku iwi

My role on the project Whakarahia anō te ra kaihau!  – Raise up again the billowing sail! Revitalising cultural knowledge through analysis of Te Rā is to support the research in the analysing  the raranga (weave) techniques used by our tūpuna in the creation of Te Rā. While unpacking the weave by analysing Te Rā directly from photographs and visiting Te Rā in person I am also unpacking the weave through illustration.

Sourcing and selection of Harakeke

I began to harvest from pa harakeke I know and have used before, both in the Waikato and Rotorua areas. I am looking for a medium length harakeke with some fibre. The fibre content adds to the strength of the leaf. I will make samplers to practice and gain a better understanding of the techniques used on Te Ra. This will also assist in the drawing process.

I follow tikanga and do not harvest harakeke in the rain, when frosty or at night.

Preparation process

Harvest and blade the harakeke. Blade means to remove the front edge and mid rib, as well as cutting off the hard butt end. Then rui the blades – sort into lengths and then hapene is to soften. Once that’s done, mark and divide into desired width. Bundle, boil and hang to dry.

Harakeke harvested and bagged
for transportation

Stripping, rui and hapene the blades of harakeke
Prepared harakeke bundles hung to dry

Drawing of the weaving process

This is the whakapapa or the layout of the sampler.

Taki tahi weaving process

I’ve started with taki tahi because it is the basic weave structure that makes up the main body of Te Ra.  As a weaver I know this pattern well, which then allows me to focus on the illustration and develop a style for the drawings early on in the project.

As I am weaving, I stop and take a photo of each step, so I can illustrate from the weaving as well as the photograph. I am looking at two sources of information in order to create step by step instructional diagrams of the raranga process and techniques used on Te Rā. This process will be valuable as the weave becomes more complex.

These tools I use are an iphone and laptop these provide easy access to specific areas. I can isolate and zoom in to get a better view as shown in the next images.

Computer and sketch pad – Close up images for illustration.
Sequential illustrations commencement of taki tahi weave

The next blog will be the illustrations of the creation of the Puareare pattern that runs across Te Rā.

The Puareare pattern is where a whenu is slightly twisted to create a space within the weave. There are four rows of Puareare going between the Taki tahi pattern in one direction, and then change direction creating a chevron shape. This is repeated and continues all the way up Te Ra and through the join.

Weaving these techniques gives me a stronger understanding of what’s happening so I can then translate it to paper. 

This mahi to focuses on: –

1.Taki tahi

2.Puareare, change of direction


4.Hiki with Puareare going through it.

Below is a stylized rendering of the Puareare, seeing the weave through close up images on my phone.

These drawings with shading are larger than the instructional drawings I will do.

They are drawing exercises in seeing and a freer style of rendering what I see.

Stylized illustrations showing a detail of different weave patterns.
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