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Basket kete

Basket kete

Place: New Zealand
Category: Baskets & fans

flax, New Zealand, h. 25.5 cm, w. 45.5 cm, Hanover 1854, No. 50

Forster Register B. 19 (?) ‘a basket from New Zealand’

Basket made of light and reddish to dark brown flax strips plaited in a geometric pattern.

Baskets and bags in New Zealand were essentially utility items and were traditionally made by the women. Simple examples made of green, unprocessed flax strips were used for work in the home and in the fields. The baskets here are made of processed flax strips, whereby the outermost layer of the plant was carefully shaved off with a seashell, and the flax then exposed to the heat of a fire. This made the flax whiter and softer (Buck 1950: 150). The dark colouration was achieved by dipping the flax in mud.

Best wrote of these baskets: ‘Such baskets were more carefully made than work baskets; they were made of closer plait and often adorned with geometric designs in black and white’ (Best 1924, II: 525). The handles were made of plaited or twisted cords. In fabrication technique and appearance, they are comparable to baskets and bags made of Polynesian pandanus, Polynesia (see Buck 1950: 144-56 for detailed descriptions of plaiting technique). Markus Schindlbeck


Best, Elsdon, The Maori, 2 vols, Wellington, 1924.

Buck, Peter, The Coming of the Maori, Wellington, 1950.

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