Kowhaiwhai and Knitting

It is no secret (or shouldn't be) that I am part Maori. Over the years I have become more and more interested in reconnecting with the Maori culture but living in America (and soon Japan) it has been rather difficult to find any local Maori/Polynesian communities here. Thankfully the internet exists, so I have been using it to do some research. And recently I came across Kowhaiwhai... Here are some examples below.

Kowhaiwhai are wood cravings painted in black, red and white (and in some tribes, blue) often seen in Maori Wharenui (meetinghouses) on ceiling rafters. It is not just for decorative purposes but also cultural as it represents the lineage and ancestory of the members of the iwi (tribe). 

A distinctive feature of Kowhaiwhai is the curving shapes and circular clump at the end. This is meant to mimic the unfurling of the silver fern, also known as the koru (loop). The koru's symbolism is two fold: the circular nature represents everlasting movement, and the inner coil signifies the point of origin.

The koru of the silver fern.

The koru of the silver fern.

Kowhaiwhai is great because the designs do not have to be limited to woodcarvings. It is also used as motifs in tattoos, paintings and many other mediums. So I thought, why not knitting? It will also serve as a good introduction to multi-color knitting (though I will have to design something first that only uses two colors per row before tackling three colors in a row). The question is, what should my first kowhaiwhai knitting attempt be? A cowl? Scarf? Wrist/arm warmers? Leg warmers? Something to think about.

For more information about Kowhaiwhai here are some resources:

Maori Kowhaiwhai

The Textile Blog