New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Matariki 2015 - Kōwhaiwhai

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Typically featured in the whare whakairo (decorated meeting house) on the heke (rafters), kōwhaiwhai is an art form that is distinctively Māori, and unique to Aotearoa New Zealand. Issued to coincide with the dawn of Māori New Year, the Matariki 2015 stamp issue celebrated this ancient art form in a contemporary setting.

Issue information

Kōwhaiwhai has been a central theme in the work of Māori artists for generations. Today it is a symbol of modern Māori identity and is a fine example of the abstract nature of Māori art.

Kōwhaiwhai patterns refer to ancestral lineage and genealogy and also represent the natural world. The shape of the kōwhaiwhai design conveys a sense of perpetual motion, with the literal translation of kōwhaiwhai being ‘to pursue’ or ‘to repeat’.

This self-adhesive stamp issue celebrated kōwhaiwhai through the artworks of six established Māori artists - from the digital, wide-reaching work of Johnson Witehira to the accomplished work of Sandy Adsett, who has long been regarded as the artist most closely associated with modern kōwhaiwhai painting.

The set of six stamps was displayed on a miniature sheet and two first day covers, with the artwork featured in the background taken from a totara wood panel titled Wairere, 2009. The work is by Wi Te Tau Pirika Taepa (Te Ātiawa, Te Arawa). The miniature sheet was the only way to obtain the stamps in a gummed format.

Product Listing for Matariki 2015 - Kōwhaiwhai

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Johnson Witehira' self-adhesive stamp.


Johnson Witehira (Ngāti Hinekura, Ngāi-tū-te-auru, Ngāti Hauā) has studied intensively the art of kōwhaiwhai. Like many other Māori artists, he finds comfort when working in the same manner as his ancestors. From an informed position, Witehira creates new and innovative kōwhaiwhai designs. His designs incorporate new techniques, materials and influences and have been applied to a variety of forms and spaces that are not exclusively Māori.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Kura Te Waru Rewiri' self-adhesive stamp.

Tēnei au tēnei au (This is me, this is me)

Tēnei au tēnei au experiments with the illusory qualities of kōwhaiwhai, the sense of movement and depth that is created through the use of positive and negative space. Rather than repeating those techniques, however, Kura Te Waru Rēwiri (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Raukawa ki Kauwhata) has used transparent glazes to overlay various kōwhaiwhai designs.

Single Stamp

Single $1.40 'Kylie Tiuka' self-adhesive stamp.

Haki from the series Whakahokia mai te mauri

Kylie Tiuka (Tūhoe) is a former student of Sandy Adsett and belongs to a new generation of Māori artists who incorporate kōwhaiwhai within their work. She admires the rhythm of customary kōwhaiwhai and strives to achieve the same degree of balance in her work. Tiuka draws inspiration from painting in the whare whakairo from her tribal region of Te Urewera.

Single Stamp

Single $2.00 'Buck Nin' self-adhesive stamp.

Banner Moon from the series Land Protest 1975-1976 reworked in 1982

Buck Nin (1942-1996, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa) was a central figure in the establishment of the contemporary Māori art movement in the 1960s. His paintings combine customary Māori arts with landscape and portraiture tō convey the strength and resolve of Māori culture in the modern period. Banner Moon depicts a landscape seen through the lattice of a carved canoe prow.

Single Stamp

Single $2.50 'Ngatai Taepa' self-adhesive stamp.

Part of the Te Hatete o Te Reo series

Ngātai Tāepa (Te Arawa, Te ātiawa) promotes the practice of kōwhaiwhai as a visual language and has advanced the tradition with a range of new, confident and complex designs. This artwork is from a series called Te Hatete o Te Reo, which references a waiata (song) that encourages people to speak the Māori language.

Single Stamp

Single $3.00 'Sandy Adsett' self-adhesive stamp.

Taona Marama (Night Lights of the City)

Sandy Adsett (Ngāti Kahungunu) has long been regarded as the artist most closely associated with modern kōwhaiwhai painting. Adsett has, however, consistently challenged the classic definition of kōwhaiwhai as a fixed and repeating pattern in the standard colours of red, black and white. Rather, he has drawn attention tō the wide range of colours used by the ancestral artists.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled gummed miniature sheet. $10.50
First Day Cover First day cover with six self-adhesive stamps affixed. $11.00
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with gummed miniature sheet affixed. $11.00
Presentation Pack

Learn more about kōwhaiwhai and the artists whose work featured on these stamps with this special presentation pack. Specially designed by Rangi Kipa and Roy McDougall, the presentation pack brings the story of kōwhaiwhai to life in English and te reo with further information about the artworks featured on the stamps and the artists who created them. Contained within the pack was the full set of stamps, the gummed miniature sheet and the first day cover.

Still available for purchase. Click here.


Technical information

Date of issue: 3 June 2015
Number of stamps: Six self-adhesive stamps
Denominations: 80c (x2), $1.40, $2.00, $2.50 and $3.00
Stamps designed by: Rangi Kipa and Roy McDougall
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print Ltd by offset lithography 
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 40mm x 30mm (horizontal and vertical)
Paper type:
Self-adhesive: Tullis Russell 210gsm PSA red phosphor stamp paper
Gummed miniature sheets: Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation: 13.33 x 13.60 (Miniature Sheet)
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 2 June 2016. First day covers remained on sale until 3 August 2015.