How many Anthropologists/Adventurers recorded seeing natives in grass skirts? Well they've been sprung - the ‘skirts’ weren’t grass!
Adventurers recouped costs and publicized their journeys through travel journals, published on their return. The description of ‘Natives in grass skirts’ was perhaps convenient in terms of their readership, but it demonstrates a point of view.
In Maori mythology the flax plant (harakeke) was born of the union between Tane and Huna. Huna is the keeper of the flax and of the knowledge concerning its use.
‘Over recent years flax has been the source and resource of much of my art-making and research. Knowledge, inspiration have come from the plant, from the tuition of skilled flax weavers, from studying the cloaks and other flax items in museums and even, quite literally, from out of the ground (archaeological excavations). The language of the harakeke continues to lead me deeper into an understanding of the esoteric knowledge of which Huna is the guardian.’ - Maureen Lander.
Like the rest of a programme of exhibitions being held this year and early next year, Lander is using the Carnegie cases, on loan from the Auckland Museum. Andrew Carnegie, American Philanthropist, provided funding for touring exhibitions to travel the country, informing and educating at each regional stop. The exhibits were permanently housed in elaborate Edwardian cases - now known as the Carnegie Cases. Packaging cultural exhibits for transit ‘spread the archeological word’.
Like Vivieaere before her, Lander has a point to make about such packaging. But equally as important is the fine braiding of flax the adorns the cases in this exhibition. It takes a traditional knowledge-base and re-contextualises it into the contemporary art tradition. The flax is used as a display framework - creating the view through which objects are seen or not seen as the case may be.
Lander is of Ngāpuhi, Irish Scottish and Yorkshire descent.