Maori Exhibition to Open at Hallie Ford Museum of Art

Korowai: Nga Taonga Tuku Iho, 1989, detail above and full cloak by Kahutoi Te KanawaA major exhibition of traditional and contemporary Maori weaving will open Sept. 24 and continue through Dec. 22 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. "Toi Maori: The Eternal Thread" features more than 100 woven items from New Zealand collections and is the first time a major exhibition of Maori weaving has been presented in the United States. Willamette University is one of only three venues in the world chosen for this exhibition tour. Maori weavers will be on site, explaining their craft, and will conduct an opening ceremony and procession, wearing visually stunning cloaks woven from native plants and the feathers of kiwi birds.

The exhibition demonstrates the spiritual significance of weaving within Maori culture. Among the Maori, cloaks provide mantles of leadership and spiritual protection, reflecting the status of tribal leaders, and finely woven cloaks ornamented with feathers are worn for important ceremonial occasions.

In the 1950s, New Zealand witnessed a major revival of traditional Maori weaving. The exhibition honors that revival as well as a new generation of artists who have created innovative, contemporary art anchored in the concepts, materials and techniques of the past.

Some artists in the exhibition explore nontraditional materials, including paper "cut-out" cloaks, film leader and wire. Artist Diane Prince has created an ethereal, semi-transparent cloak of copper wire, while multimedia artist Lisa Reihana has created digital interpretations of weaving in her evocative video, "Tauira," and Moana Nepia's "paintings with feathers" challenge traditional notions of Maori weaving.

A number of traditional weaving techniques are represented, including whatu, used to weave the cloak's materials together, and raranga, used to create finely woven baskets and floor mats. Traditionally, looms were not used to create cloaks; instead, the work was suspended between two upright pegs and woven by hand. Cloaks are distinguished by their decoration and have evolved over the years. Those ornamented with feathers are highly prized and considered the most prestigious.

In addition to the exquisite cloaks, text panels will introduce visitors to the history, materials and techniques of Maori weaving, while photomurals of ancestors will portray the significance and continuity of the cloak within Maori culture. Lectures, panel discussions and weaving demonstrations will introduce visitors to the history and beauty of Maori art and culture.

Organized by the Pataka Museum of Arts and Culture in Porirua City, New Zealand, in partnership with Toi Maori Aotearea-Maori Arts New Zealand, the exhibition is supported by a major grant from Te Waka Toi/Creative New Zealand. Local sponsorship has been provided by grants from The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde through their Spirit Mountain Community Fund, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Oregon Arts Commission and the City of Salem's Transient Occupancy Tax funds.

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is located at 700 State Street (corner of State and Cottage Streets) in downtown Salem near the Willamette University campus. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and students. Children under 12 are admitted free, and Tuesday is an admission-free day. For more information call 503-370-6855 or visit