What makes a poi? Contemporary materials

Modern poi are made from natural materials like harakeke, and  but can also include artificial and constructed materials such as plastic, nylon, and wool.

We have many contemporary poi in our collections including poi made using various materials like fish skin, plastic, wool, foil, and nylon.

Poi tāniko named Te Pō-i-roa – Cori Marsters

This poi tāniko known as Te Po-i-roa was woven by Cori Marsters (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Te Whakatōhea) in 2020 and is woven completely from muka extracted from harakeke. This includes the stuffing of the ball which is also muka. Paru has been used to achieve the black colouring.

Cori Marsters, Poi tāniko (kinetic percussion instrument) named Te Pō-i-roa, 2020, Rotorua, muka (New Zealand flax fibre), paru (iron rich mud). Te Papa (ME024642)

“I used to go around following my Nan, and she used to have weaving friends. We’d go to different people’s home. We never thought we were doing art, it was if someone needed a basket to go to the beach or for their shopping.”

– Cori Marsters

Poi tāniko named Ngā pumanawa e waru – the eight attributes of Te Arawa – Karl Leonard

This poi tāniko by Karl Leonard (Te Arawa) shows substantial innovation with the diamond-shaped eight-sided construction and employment of tāniko. Leonard has used customary dye methods with matipo (Pittosporum tenuifolium) for the brown colour and raurekau (Coprosma grandifolia) for the yellow colours. The filling of the poi is muka.

Karl Leaonard, Poi tāniko named Ngā pumanawa e waru – the eight attributes of Te Arawa, 2009, Rotorua, muka (flax fibre), dye. Te Papa (ME024025)

“Creating poi tāniko for me is an opportunity to extend the work begun by others and hopefully see this taonga share a similar status to that of its whanaunga, the kaitaka. The challenge with each creation comes with adding in weft threads to shape or placement of inserts as a means of working towards perfecting the design. The colours are simple, the dyes come from our native trees and waterways.”

– Karl Leonard

Poi kānga (corn husk poi) – Tangimoe Clay

This pair of poi kānga were woven by Tangimoi Clay (Te Whakatōhea) using traditional methods, but the use of corn husks was inspired by the cornfields surrounding Clay’s marae in Ōpōtiki, Bay of Plenty.

Tangimoe Clay, Poi kānga – short poi, 2016, Ōpōtiki, whitau (muka), corn husk. Te Papa (ME024226)

Poi ika (fish skin poi) – Tangimoe Clay

The poi ika is a form of poi that was developed in early 2019 and poi are constructed using the tanned skin of the terakihi with whītau utilised to form the stuffing, handles and stitching. These poi emerged from a desire by Tangimoe to produce an eco-friendly poi utilising sustainable principles, local resources, and recognise Māori and their connection to their land and environment.

Tangimoe Clay, Poi ika (fish skin poi) – adult size, 2020, Ōpōtiki, fish skin leather, whītau. Te Papa (ME024657)

“I’m happy to have contributed to the evolution of poi in the history of kapa haka and Toi Māori. I encourage each iwi to use their own natural resources and fibre, to move away from plastics. To be the true kaitiaki, we as Māori are meant to be.”

– Tangimoe Clay, 2019

Poi kura – Matthew McIntyre-Wilson

This poi kura necklace made by Matthew McIntyre-Wilson (Ngā Māhanga, Taranaki) with a copper, fine silver, and handmade silk cord. The pendant is a New Zealand 10c coin, with karoro feathers arranged around the coin.

Matthew McIntyre-Wilson, Poi kura necklace, 2016, copper, silver, silk thread, ten cent coin and karoro (black billed gull) feathers. Te Papa (ME024277)

The name Poi Kura can be interpreted as feathered poi (ball) or precious poi. Both ideas are encapsulated within Matthew’s interpretation of the Poi Kura necklace. The use of poi as an accompaniment, as an instrument and a symbolic reference to travel is known as a speciality to Taranaki iwi, who are widely known for their use of poi accompaniment with mōteatea. Further Taranaki reference in this taonga also uses the raukura or kura ma, the white feather which is a symbol of peace.

“The variation of pattern in my work is a reflection of a continuing investigation and exploration of the whakapapa of weaving.”

– Mattew McIntyre-Wilson

Poi tāniko named Poi Corona – Jude Te Punga Nelson

This poi tāniko was woven by Jude Te Punga Nelson (Te Āti Awa) from dyed red and silver dyed muka using the tāniko technique and adorned with red muka tassel. The red projections on the ball of the poi are constructed utilising knots to replicate the ngōre embellishment commonly seen in kākahu weaving. A four-ply whiri of silver muka functions as a cord. A red muka tassel is attached to the end of the cord as a handle.

Jude Te Punga Nelson, Poi tāniko (kinetic percussion instrument) named Poi Corona, 2020, Palmerston North, muka (New Zealand flax fibre), paru (iron rich mud), synthetic dye. Te Papa (ME024659)

“Covid has changed the world. Artists across time have recorded current events in drawings, paintings and other art forms. I wanted to create a woven memory for the future so that 20, 50, 100, 200 years from now we will look back and recall this extraordinary and deadly time.”

– Jude Te Punga Nelson