The border pattern that appears in this website is based on a traditional Maori design. The spiral, or koru, is a prominent feature in Maori art. It represents the new unfurling frond of the Silver Fern, and symbolises birth or new life, which is one of the reasons we felt it was an appropriate pattern to use. The koru is a particularly common design and is often used in a repetitive fashion, as in the kowhaiwhai to the left.
"Kowhaiwhai are beautiful patterns that appear as painted scroll designs, abstract and curvilinear in form. At first, kowhaiwhai patterns can be viewed as a means of decoration only, but closer examination reveals sophisticated mathematical precision involving symmetry, rotation, reflection and translation. The koru or pit au is the most basic design element of kowhaiwhai. These curving stalks with bulbs at one end bear a striking resemblance to the young succulent shoot of a native fern." (Auckland Museum).
Why use a kowhaiwhai on our website? First of all we wanted something which was intrinsically New Zealand in origin. Our roots, and those of the ponies we have, are all firmly embedded in the soil of our homeland. While the Celtic knots and spirals of Ireland are iconic and beautiful, the excessive use of decoration from another cultural heritage did not sit well with us. We can all claim Celtic heritage somewhere in our ancestry, but our home and lives have been here, surrounded by Maori culture.
For Kohatu, the kowhaiwhai, also has a deeper meaning than mere design, which seemed appropriate. Kowhaiwhai are used in the decoration of the meeting house or whare. In a way, this website is our meetinghouse - we are unlikely to ever be able to welcome you into our homes, so we will welcome you to our website instead.
"Kowhaiwhai used to depict tribal lineage on the house ridgepole and rafters reveals that, although considered to be of lesser importance to woodcarving and tattooing, kowhaiwhai never-the-less carries with it connotations and associations of "authority by descent (genealogical mana)". (Neich, Roger: Painted Histories, Auckland University Press, Auckland,1993 pp16).
Maori culture is highly spiritual, and traditionally has very strict protocols on who is allowed to perform specific acts and rituals, which also includes limiting who can perfom particular types of artistic expression. "Kowhaiwhai, requires no special ritual of initiation, no formal training and is considered to be a common activity and therefore, can be carried out by anyone. Such freedom to explore and create is not enjoyed in the art forms of wood-carving and tattooing." (Auckland Museum). Hence, we, as female Pakeha (non-Maori) are also free to use and explore this design without it being culturally inappropriate.