Rafter Paintings

Kowhaiwhai patterns, the painted art form of the New Zealand Maori, are the basis for these stamp designs.

Issue information

The most important painted patterns are found on the interior rafters of tribal meeting houses.  The rafters are seen as the ribs of the ancestor, whom the house personifies.  All the carving, weaving and artwork embellishing a meeting house relate the legends, history and beliefs of the tribe.

Three colours dominated traditional designs - red ochre from crushed stone, black from soot, and white-blue grey from clay.  These pigments were mixed with shark oil to produce the paint.  Simple fibre brushes were used.  The Maori people believe their designs symbolise strength, new life, growth in knowledge and the breath of life.

Variations of traditional patterns were designed specially for this set of stamps.

Mangopare (the hammer-head shark) - symbolises strength - 40c_a
The pattern represents strength of purpose in all things and the fighting prowess of the tribe.

Koru (fern sprout) - symbolises new life - 40c_b
This pattern of the single koru arranged in 16 units personifies youth and represents the many different paths now facing the Maori.

Raupunga (to merge up and out)  - symbolises growth of knowledge - 40c
The fern leaf pattern formed on the water is likened to a spreading canopy encompassing new growth and development which relates to the emerging contemporary art forms of the Maori.

Koiri (to move to and fro like the wind) - symbolises the breath of life - 60c
The circular movement of the stamp's pattern represents the unpredictable nature of the elements.

Technical information

Date of Issue: 2 March 1988
Designer: S Adsett, Gisborne
Printers: Leigh-Mardon, Australia
Stamp Size: 30mm x 35mm
Sheet Size:   100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation Gauge:  13.5
Paper Type: Unwatermarked