Tangimoe Clay ✿ Crafting the world on a string


22 September 2021

For Keri-Mei Zagrobelna, Tangimoe Clay’s poi evoke memories of crafting these Māori balls on a string out of found materials.

Tangimoe Clay is a weaver from Ōpōtiki who has exhibited in New Zealand as well as internationally. Her refined work echoes a timeless story through traditional weaving techniques. Known mainly for pieces made with harakeke (NZ flax). Clay is also expanding into other natural materials such as feather and fish skin and her work is held in several museum collections.

Clay’s inspiration comes from her Māori heritage and her direct immediate environment building a visual language between herself and these elements to weave stories. Her fish skin poi, which are called “Poi Ika”, demonstrate a new and innovative approach to the Māori Poi. “Poi” means “ball on a string” and these were traditionally used to increase flexibility in the hands and arms and today are seen being performed within traditional and contemporary Kapa Haka dance practices, Karakia (prayer) and Rongoa Māori (Māori traditional healing).

The Poi Ika are the first of their kind and represent a modern adaptation to the poi, using eco-friendly and locally sourced materials. They are created with sustainable practices and demonstrate a deep connection to the land and environment. The individual poi are meticulously crafted with an intrinsic awareness throughout the entire process.

Tangimoe Clay is in charge of the whole process, from the catching of the ika (fish) from her local bay, right through to the tanning and natural sun drying of the skins, to the stitching and plaiting of the fine muka threads that create the string cords.

I have childhood memories of making and crafting poi with my grandmother out of plastic bags and wool. I feel this memory I hold speaks to indigenous ingenuity and innovation in the adaptation of materials for our traditional crafts. Using what is available around us. It is wonderful to see that as many communities turn away from plastics that this same ingenuity and innovation is creatively thriving to keep traditions alive. I dream of one day owning my own pair of Poi Ika in which I can perform with and sing the waiata (songs) that were taught to me by my grandmother.

This fine craftsmanship and work of Clay echoes these songs and stories of indigenous Māori weaving practices and innovation, upholding and keeping these alive and flourishing for future generations.

Tangimoe Clay’s Iwi Affiliations are Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Ngahere and Te Whakatōhea. See Wikipedia  and Te Papa.

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