The return of sail Tē Ra

Tē Ra, “the only known customary Māori sail in existence”, will soon be on display in New Zealand.

The sail, which is on loan from the British Museum, will be in Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū from July 8 for nearly three months before travelling to the north island.

The sail has been kept in the British Museum for more than 200 years and has been shown to the public only once in its lifetime.

Senior weaver Ranui Ngarimu, senior research fellow Dr Catherine Smith, and Senior Lecturer Dr Donna Campbell have spent years studying the sail and arranging for it to be brought back to New Zealand, as the detailed sail is of interest to New Zealand weavers.

Tē Ra is an important piece of New Zealand history, as it showcases techniques that are unique to the time.

The sail is around four and a half metres long and features a complex three-way pattern woven from harakeke. As well as being made from kererū, kāhu and kākā feathers, and dog skin.

Ngarimu, also a member of the research team behind the Tē Ra exhibit, says this is an exhibit people really need to see in person due to its scale and intricacy.

“We warmly invite everyone to come and experience Tē Ra in person, because the impressive scale and intricate details are best appreciated up close, and the weight of history is felt most strongly when in its presence,” says Ngarimu.

“This exhibition is deeply significant for the way it builds on our cultural and historic knowledge of Māori weaving and voyaging. The incredible skill of those early Māori weavers and the innovative techniques and technology they developed are truly awe-inspiring.”

To learn more about the “Tē Ra: The Māori Sail” exhibition here.

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