National | Funding

$845k Marsden funding awarded to research last known Māori sail

A group of researchers are setting out to study what is believed to be the only remaining Māori sail. Māori textiles scholar Dr Catherine Smith says the research will enhance knowledge about how voyaging occurred.

Te Rā is the last known Māori sail to ever exist. Marsden Funds is supporting research into its construction and use.

Māori textiles scholar Dr Catherine Smith says, "I'm working together with Donna Campbell and Ranui Ngarimu to examine everything about the sail which is held at the British Museum currently."

Knowledge of Māori weaving techniques, DNA analysis and microscopy will be used to provide insights into the sail.

"Bringing together that weaving knowledge, bringing together plant materials i.d, identifying the feathers, the skin on the sail and really documenting its structure, then we've got a whole package that we can bring that information back to New Zealand."

Dr Smith says the information gathered through this research will be useful to those who are interested in the revitalisation of traditional voyaging.

"The more we embed that knowledge in its cultural context, the more that we explore the relationship between things like Te Rā and the place they came from, we can only enhance our knowledge about how voyaging occurred and the importance of voyaging."

The Marsden Fund has dedicated $845,000 over three years to the project.