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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 8 (December 1, 1933)

Origin of Art Designs

Origin of Art Designs.

Many students of the Maori have given it as their opinion that the Maori brought his wood-carving and painting patterns with him on his long migration from the older-peopled countries. No doubt there are certain likenesses between our New Zealand art designs and the carving and sculpture of Asia and Egypt and other lands. But I am inclined more and more to the belief that the chief inspiration for the Maori whakairo was derived from his study of natural objects during his many centuries of life in this country. It does not seem reasonable to deny originality of thought in artcraft to the Maori, and to overlook the probability that he found his principal source of ideas in these islands of ours, huge land masses after the tropic isles of the Pacific, with great trees for building and carving and canoe-hewing, an abundance of ferns and wild flowers, and in many ways great beauty in Nature which could not but impress the eye and soul of the artcraftsman. The period during which New Zealand has been occupied by Polynesians certainly would give sufficient time for the race to evolve arts and industries entirely indigenous.

In clothing, in buildings, in canoes and fortifications, the Maori displayed an originality and skill derived from long effort in adapting the natural resources of the country to his needs. Similarly, in art designs he may be conceded the credit of having evolved the most characeristic forms of decoration, and certainly his forms of tattooing, from his environment here after his arrival from the Eastern Pacific. Such art motives as the double page 50 spiral, or pitau, may have been derived from any one or all of several obvious sources here independently of the serpent forms of Asia and Europe and Egypt.