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No. 25 (December 1958)
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The piupius are ready (Photo by Mr Wallace)

WE MADE OUR OWN PIUPIUS

Recently Mr Wallace, our Headmaster, showed us a photo of the Anaura Bay School children wearing piupius which they had made when he was their teacher. We decided that we would like to learn to make piupius too and, as we intended to hold a school concert in a few week's time, we got busy right away.

Flax is not very plentiful in our district and we had to get small quantities from here and there. We soon learned that some flax was good for our purpose and some was not. Mr Wallace showed us how to cut the flax leaving the three centre leaves in each small clump. We then stripped it and brought it back to school where we placed it in a shady corner and covered it with wet sacks to keep it green.

We chose a very simple pattern because this was our first attempt and because these was not much time before our concert. We marked out the pattern on a flat board and used this board as a guide for cutting the pattern on the flax. This was done by laying the strip of flax on the board and scoring through the fleshy part with a sharp knife. We had to be careful not to cut right through the flax. We then ran the back of the knife under the piece we had scored and the fleshy part of the flax came away leaving just the fibres (or whitau) in these places.

As we finished each strip we hung it up to dry and then we rubbed and rubbed the fibres to make them soft.

Then Mrs Wallace showed us how to taniko the strips together. We put about 150 strips on each piupiu and we did six rows of taniko on each waist. Then we plaited in the loose fibres at the back to keep them firm.

Now the piupius were ready to dye. We

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Here are some photos which we had taken while we were making the piupius.
1. Mr Wallace, Werawera Te Whetu and Peter Kepa cutting the flax.

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2. Peter Kepa and Mr Wallace stripping the flax while Werawera looks on.

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3. John Graham marking the pattern on a strip of flax. George Hohua is in the background.

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4. Werawera Te Whetu shows how the flesh is removed and only the fibres left to make the pattern.

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5. Mrs Wallace and Miss Nano White showing the girls how to taniko the strips together.

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6. Wha Mita removing the tutu leaves from the water Maioha Timoti is waiting to put the first piupiu in.

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7. Frank Taipeti and Wha Mita removing a piupiu from the mud bath.

gathered a lot of tutu leaves and boiled them up in a copper. When the mixture had cooled we put the piupius into it and left them in until the fibres turned slightly pink in colour (about 10 minutes). Then we lifted them out of the copper and placed them in an old bath which was full of very black mud thinned down with the tutu mixture. We left them in the mud bath for a few minutes, then lifted them out and rinsed them in cold water. We then hung them up to dry.

Photos 1 to 8 inclusive by Carl Perham, Whakatane

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Wearing the completed piupius. From left, standing: Werawera Te Whetu, Rasie Timoti, Hine Tokotari, Maloha Timoti, Himaima McGarvey. In front: George Hohua and Peter kepa.