In ancient Peru the main materials used for spinning and weaving were cotton, alpaca, and llama wool. They were employed in a number of natural colors, from white to brown, and they were also dyed using mineral, vegetable or animal pigments. In the spinning process a spindle was used that included a feature known as a pinturo which was a type of counterweight that facilitated the rotation of the spindle and the tightening of the thread. Weaving is one of the oldest traditions in the world. In fact, since 2500 BCE it has been an important part of Peruvian culture. It sits at the very core of the Quechua culture, shaping personal and regional identities, and acting as a form of inter-regional communication. Some people vest their entire sense of personal identity in their occupation as a weaver, stating that without weaving they would no longer have an identity. Much like coffee, cashmere, or wine, the quality of cotton varies greatly. Thanks to ideal growing conditions, extra-long staple length and hand harvesting, Peruvian pima cotton is the world’s finest, prized for its exceptional durability, softness and brilliant luster.
When we visited Te Puia, we had a chance to visit the schools of Carving and Weaving. As the Māori did not have a written language until the 19th century, carvings were used to record and preserve the history and culture of their people. Ornate Māori carvings can be found on meeting houses, canoes, weapons and jewelry, with superior carvings seen as a sign of prestige. Māori carvings are a record of tribal affairs and pay deep respect to ancestors, history and the people for whom they are prepared – although they cannot be read or interpreted in a Western sense. The isolation from the rest of Polynesia means Māori wood carving differs significantly from other Pacific styles, although the basic patterns are believed to originate from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki (Hawaii). The name ‘Te Rito’ is based on the baby shoot at the heart of the flax. Students are taught never to disturb the inner shoots when cutting flax as the baby along with its mother and father on each side is a family unit that should not be broken. Like the Carving School, Te Rito has been involved in a range of projects to develop cultural heritage assets for Māori.