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

Rafter Paintings

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Kōwhaiwhai patterns, the painted art form of Māori, are the basis for these stamp designs. 

Issue information

The most important painted patterns are found on the interior rafters of tribal meeting houses. The rafters are seen as the ribs of the ancestor, whom the house personifies. All the carving, weaving and artwork embellishing a meeting house relate the legends, history and beliefs of the tribe.

Three colours dominated traditional designs - red ochre from crushed stone, black from soot, and white-blue grey from clay. These pigments were mixed with shark oil to produce the paint. Simple fibre brushes were used. Māori people believe their designs symbolise strength, new life, growth in knowledge and the breath of life.

Variations of traditional patterns were designed specially for this set of stamps.

Product listing for Rafter Paintings

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Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Mangōpare - the hammer-head shark' gummed stamp.

This pattern represented strength of purpose in all things and the fighting prowess of the tribe.

Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Koru - fern sprout' gummed stamp.

This pattern of the single koru symbolised new life. The koru arranged in 16 units personified youth and represented the many different paths now facing Māori.

Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Raupunga - to merge up and out' gummed stamp.

This fern leaf pattern symbolised growth of knowledge.The pattern was formed on the water and is likened to a spreading canopy encompassing new growth and development which relates to the emerging contemporary art forms of Māori.

Single Stamp

Single 60c 'Koiri - to move to and fro like the wind' gummed stamp.

The Koiri symbolised the breath of life and the circular movement of the stamp's pattern represents the unpredictable nature of the elements


First Day Cover First day  cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $1.97

Technical information

Date of issue: 2 March 1988
Designer: Sandy Adsett, Gisborne
Printers: Leigh-Mardon, Australia
Stamp size: 30mm x 35mm
Sheet size:   100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation gauge:  13.5
Paper type: Unwatermarked
Period of sale; These stamps remained on sale until 2 March 1989.