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Poems for May 2018: New Zealand's South Island; 1 Poem; Taramakau River; Māori Art, Paua and Greenstone

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Ann loves to write poetry and stories. Current poetry on Nature, Travel & beyond, including varied poetic structures.

Taramakau - Braided River

Although we had been across the mouth of this river, further up on the west coast, the best view ever was experienced from the plane as we left New Zealand. Our flight followed the river’s course from part way across Arthur’s Pass to the sea, above the northern edge of the Southern Alps. I was riveted. The pattern of this ‘braided’ river is unlike anything I have ever seen before. I understand now how the Maori people used patterns from the landscape in their art, for if you stood atop any of these mountains and looked down on a river, you would see part of nature’s intricate tapestry.

Course of Taramakau River

Taramakau River

Source in Southern Alps, guardians of the south-west coast,

majestic in their snow-cragged sleeping caps, grey ridged coats.

Taramakau weaves its thread down to shale bed then it squeezes

through a gorge to re-emerge this time on wider shale, and teases

the eye, braiding through as turquoise ribbon on grey base,

following the dark greywacke guide to reach the sea’s strong race.

Braid consolidates shore to shore, firmly patterning the shale,

tapestry to feast the eyes from above, fixing ancient design, dark-pale.

What wondrous fabric is discovered, only from above, on high!

Look down humbly, your heart will soar, make your senses fly.

Just a river you say? Rather a liquid landscape, nature’s best,

inspiring all who dare to aim, to find the ultimate, flowing, artistic fest.

Woven scarf laid over schist, fluttering tatters reach from the slopes,

pouring their fresh, sparkling turquoise to refresh our eyes and hopes.

Taramakau! Wander, weave and wrench the mind, tearing it apart;

challenge imagination with your wild, living, natural art!

More about The Taramakau

  • Its source is 80 km east of Hokitika (a small town on the west coast).
  • Several small rivers are tributaries of the Taramakau, the main one being the Otira River, the valley of which forms the western approach to Arthur’s Pass.
  • The river mouth is on the west coast just south of Greymouth.
  • ‘Braided’ refers to the way the river meanders through the river bed, seeming to form a plaited pattern among the stones and shallow banks.


Not only does this river inspire poetry but also fiction and many forms of art. The patterns are endless.

The braiding of the water: it looks just like a woven tapestry as it knits one shore to the other.

The river's banks: they broaden, then narrow, with an occasional island in the middle, foliated or not. Off-shoots adorn the adjacent land, looking like wisps of material that have been torn off the main strip.

Turquoise waters: where does that colour come from? It's not merely the reflection of the sky. There is a quality in the schist of the river-bed that refracts the light and cools your eye with this surprising clarity and depth of hue.

It is a living, flowing, ever-changing natural work of art that cannot fail to make one ponder on the mysteries and glories of this world.

It is typical of the nature that inspires so much of New Zealand's art.

Māori Art

'Art is and has always been an integral component of Māori culture. Traditional Māori art was created using materials available at the time, such as wood, bone, pounamu (jade or greenstone), paua (abalone) shell, flax and feathers. More variety of materials are used today, though many artists continue to use the traditional materials.

Māori visual art consists primarily of four forms: carving, tattooing, weaving, and painting. Symbolic pattern-making and geometric design feature in their art.

The colours black, red and white feature strongly in Māori art. Red is a symbol of ‘mana’ (prestige, power, status) and is therefore often used in the decoration of important items such as the buildings and structures around a ‘marae’ (courtyard where formal greetings and discussions take place) and ‘waka’ (canoes).'

Māoris often wear a piece of greenstone round their necks on a traditional black thread, as in the photo. The greenstone can be highly polished and is often expensive in the many specialist shops, or pieces found on the beach are tumbled and made into jewellery by locals. The latter are sold on the beach and in the street for around 5-10 dollars (price in 2018). You can see an example of each in the photo.

Wood Carving

Modern Wood Carving in Traditional Style

Modern Wood Carving in Traditional Style

Materials: Paua and Pounamu

Paua Shell (Abalone) made into Beautiful Jewellery

Paua Shell (Abalone) made into Beautiful Jewellery

Pounamu or Greenstone (New Zealand Jade)

Pounamu or Greenstone (New Zealand Jade)


Still with a view of the Taramakau and looking out over the Southern Alps to the south, I took my fill of this panarama, this unspoilt savage mountain terrain behind the plain. My heart ached to leave; I believe there is little else which can surpass what nature has created here, at least nothing that I have seen in my, albeit limited, travels.

Sadly, this was probably the last time I would visit. However, I'm privileged to have been able to experience first hand this beautiful land, its people and its culture. My treasured memories keep it alive in my soul.

Arthur's Pass and Goodbye to New Zealand

River one end of the Gorge in Arthur's Pass

River one end of the Gorge in Arthur's Pass

Last look across the Southern Alps to Mt Cook and down to the braided river, flying out of New Zealand

Last look across the Southern Alps to Mt Cook and down to the braided river, flying out of New Zealand


What do you know about New Zealand?

Visiting New Zealand

© 2018 Ann Carr

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