These tohu were my first foray into Maori fashion. In looking for a starting point, I thought, where does everything in Te Ao Maori start? It starts with whakapapa, at Te Kore. With this in mind, I created these designs based on the karakia recalling the creation of the universe. Te kore, te kore te rawea, te kore te whiwhia, te pō, te pō nui, te pō roa, te pō kerekere, te pō uriuri, whai-ao, te ao marama, tehei mauri ora. The whakaaro (ideas) behind each design are given below.
Tihei mauri ora
Tihei mauri-ora, the breath of life, recalls the narrative of Tāne fashioning the first one woman from clay. And from this clay, he breathed life into her nostrils, hence the saying Tihei mauri-ora. The concept shows Hine-ahu-one in the hands of Tāne.
Te Ao Mārama
Te Ao Mārama means ‘the world of light’. Experimentation with positive and negative space, seen in the use of silhouetted images, is a contemporary exploration of kowhaiwhai.
Whaiao means the glimmer of dawn. This concept depicts the narrative of Tāne creating Te Ao Mārama. During this even Tāne lay on his back and pushed Ranginui upwards with his legs, separating his parents. The design is comprised of a takarangi spiral and the silhouette of two kauri trees. The kauri represent the legs of Tāne, while the takarangi spiral illustrates light bursting into Te Ao Marama.
In this design, a single atom, the building block of the universe, represents Te Kore. A Māori aesthetic is applied to the design using a customary Māori colour scheme (kura, pango and kowhaiwhai) and the use of pakati notches. Pakati, as a single notch, has 'potential' energy. This energy is realised and released when pākati becomes a moving, carved line, in whakairo.
Tihei Mauri Ora
Te Ao Mārama