Toi Te Rito Maihi

Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngā Puhi

1937 - 2022

Toi was born in Hastings but was raised in Portland, Auckland, and Masterton. Her secondary education was at Queen Victoria School for Māori Girls, Parnell, Auckland. She trained as a primary school teacher at Auckland Teachers’ Training College where she met the late Berry Maihi. They married in 1957 and had five children during their teaching careers in Northland, Moawhango (Taihape) and Auckland. As an artist Toi tutored in polytechs throughout New Zealand, and at Auckland University for a year. She exhibited in Australia, Hawaii, Utah and Germany in addition to many national and regional exhibitions throughout New Zealand. For ten years Toi served as a foundation member of the Aotearoa Moananui-a-Kiwa Weavers Committee (now known as Te Ropu Whatu, Raranga o Aoteaora). She was a member of the Māori and South Pacific Arts Council (MASPAC), of the Crafts Panel of the QEII Arts Council of New Zealand, and of the National Executive of Nga Puna Waihanga. She was a guest speaker on diverse topics including "Are One With the Land" at the 1980 Conference of the Landscapers’ Guild (since renamed "Landscapers’ Industries of N.Z."). She spoke at the Embroiderers’ Guild Conference, and a public evening at the former Museum of New Zealand where she spoke on "The Art of the Women in the Whare". During the 1990 "Taonga Māori Conference", Toi was invited to speak again on the arts of the women. This took place at the Waipapa Marae at Auckland University; the audience included invited overseas Museum Directors and Curators responsible for important Māori taonga in their collections. She was guest speaker at an international conference held at the University of Australia in Canberra, in 2003. The topic was "The Translocation of Indigenous Arts and Crafts". In November of the same year, Toi tutored a workshop of "Mozzies" (Māori Aussies). She added the feathers to a newly carved waka to be launched during the Pacific Wave Festival; she consequently became a member of two panels that were also part of the festival. During the morning panel, Toi spoke as a writer, and in the afternoon as an artist.

Following the death of Berry in 1996, Toi became involved in tutoring an applied arts course at Kaikohe, and in helping Waitangi Tribunal groups to clarify their aspirations and presentations via visual means. She also began to act as the designer-weaver for the Kohewhata Marae, also near Kaikohe.

Toi wrote a large body of material including poetry, short stories, papers, reviews, non-fiction articles, catalogue essays and a great degree of unpublished work. She also produced work tracing the development of fabric making techniques of the Māori. She was involved in an applied arts course in a Māori community and was engaged in presenting the aspirations of tribunal claimant groups in visual form. She lived in Kaikohe. From the age of twelve, she was working on a book concerning taniko, whatu, cloaks, and other garments. She stated that she “wanted to show that there was something to show about the fibre arts that was incredibly important - to do with the connection between this world and the other world.”

In 1990, along with Carole Shepheard, Toi was co-designer of the Commonwealth Quilt. She travelled to Canada with Carole Shepheard and Luseane Koloi (Tongan designer) to formally hand the quilt to the city of Victoria, the host of the following Commonwealth Games. Also in 1990 she was designer of the architectural components for ‘The Discovery Place”, Civic Square in Wellington. In 1991 she was co-ordinator and exhibiting artist of the first Contemporary Māori Fibre Art exhibition in Sydney. In 1992 she was invited to create a kelp installation for the Hall of Indigenous Textiles of the World in the United Nations Building in New York. In 1993 she accepted fifteen exhibition invitations to mark Women’s Suffrage Year – pieces included an embossed print for the N.Z. Women Printmakers Show, and elsewhere fine muka and shell jewellery, harakeke paper waka and manu (kites), kelp containers and installations, and acrylic paintings on canvas. In 1994 she was one of five artists commissioned by the Wellington International Festival Directorate to design and execute large installations as festival features, and also exhibited at the The Artistic Process exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth and at H2O Water at The Dowse in Lower Hutt. In 1995 she was co-ordinator/contributor of the Māori components and artists of a major artwork for the refurbishment of the Parliament Buildings, and also exhibited a large kelp installation for Into the World of Light at the Uxbridge Gallery in Howick. In 1998 she exhibited “Haze” – a collaborative installation with Maureen Lander and Kaylynn Two Trees of Arizona at the Auckland City Art Gallery. From 1999/2000 she accepted the position of designer/weaver for the Kohewhata Marae in Kaikohe. She contributed two multi-fibre installations to Reflective Terrain at the Whangarei Art Museum, and worked with Kingsley Baird on the Anzac Memorial sculpture erected at Canberra. In 2001 she attended the Anzac Memorial dedication ceremony at Canberra and made the kuta kete presented to John Howard and Helen Clark. Also in that year she illustrated a fourth anthology by Trixie Te Arama Menzies. In 2002 she was a co-designer with Laurence Berry of an 18m tall sculpture to be erected at the Town Basin in Whangarei, and also designed a sculpture for Moerewa. In 2003 she was commissioned to provide a mural for the Catholic Bi-cultural Centre in Ponsonby, Auckland. She made 15 necklaces as part of a workshop at the Art Centre at the University of Australia in Canberra in 2003.

She illustrated numerous books and her art works have been reproduced in various publications including Mataora – the Living Face; Fabrications – Works by 40 N. Z. Fibre Artists; 100 Craft Artists of New Zealand; and New Growth From Old.

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversation and correspondence with Toi Maihi, 28 Aug. 1998, 2 Nov. 2004 and 7 Sept. 2007.
  • Te Ha questionnaire, 1992.
  • Maihi, Toi Te Rito. Pakake! Pakake! Whalesong. Auckland, N.Z.: IWA, 1992. 61.


  • "Te Whakapapa o te Kotahi Koauau a la Peruvian." Unpublished story.
  • She wrote this story when she was working in the MASPAC office. A humorous story of the adventures of a Peruvian flute in New Zealand.
  • "The Hat." Tu Tangata 3 (1981): 32. Rpt. with German trans. "Der Hut." in Nga Uri a Papatuanuku – The Descendants of the Earth Mother. OBEMA 12. 1995. 158-159.
  • A delightful story of the journey of Aunt Panapana’s white kiekie hat which was handed down the generations to various admirers.
  • "Rimurapa." With German trans. Nga Uri a Papatuanuku – The Descendants of the Earth Mother. OBEMA 12. 1995. 134-35.
  • "From The Clay." Tu Tangata. No details. Rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 5: Te Torino: The Spiral. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1996. 88. Rpt. with German trans. "Von Ton." in Nga Uri a Papatuanuku – The Descendants of the Earth Mother. OBEMA 12. 1995. 144-45.
  • Using a combination of poetry and prose the writer portrays the grieving process of a woman attending a pottery workshop and, on the anniversary of her baby’s death, eventually finding solace, comfort and release from guilt.
  • Pakake! Pakake!: Whalesong. Auckland, N.Z.: IWA, 1992. 2nd ed. 2004.
  • In this book of seven chapters Maihi tells the story passed on to her by her tribal people of the relationship between the people of Kihitu and whales. In particular Maihi writes of Ika who swam with the whales when she was pregnant. When her child Ataahua was born she was found to be a black colour with webbed feet and hands and the pair, ostracised by their own people, lived an isolated life, swimming with whales and weaving. This book is required reading in the English Language Course at Osnabruck University in Germany.
  • Non-fiction

  • "In My Eyes…" No details.
  • Maihi writes about Nga Kaupapa Here Aho.
  • "Rangimarie Taheka Hetet." New Zealand Crafts: Crafts Council Magazine 34 (Summer 1990): 26-28.
  • In this extensive tribute to Rangimarie Hetet, Maihi presents a biographical overview of her life, dicusses her artwork and recalls an early memory of meeting Hetet at a hui in Porirua in the 1970s.
  • "Regional News: Sydney Via Auckland, N.Z." Aotearoa Moananui A Kiwa Weavers 14 (Jan. 1992): 6.
  • Maihi reports on the exhibition of Contemporary Māori Fibre by Toi Maihi, Eddie Maxwell, Tina Wirihana and Aromea Tahiwi which was shown in Sydney in October 1991.
  • "Regional News: Hawaiian Māori Cultural Exchange." Aotearoa Moananui A Kiwa Weavers 14 (Jan. 1992): 6.
  • Maihi writes that in July 1991 Te Atinga Committee of Te Waka Toi sent Colleen Waata-Urlich, Alan Wihongi accompanied by his wife Leonie, and Toi Maihi to Honolulu, Hawaii for a ten-day cultural exchange with Hawaiian artists.
  • "The Māori and Whole-Brain Education." EDUVAC 26 Oct. 1992: 10
  • "Regional News: Rotoiti Regional Hui." Aotearoa Moananui A Kiwa Weavers 17 (Jan. 1993): 5.
  • "Māori and the right brain left brain." Principals Today 1995. No further details.
  • "Toi Te Rito Maihi." Nga Uri a Papatuanuku – The Descendants of the Earth Mother. OBEMA 12. 1995. 219.
  • "He Kete He Korero – Every Kete Has a Story." Whare Korero – Best of Reed Writing. Ed. Gavin McLean. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2007. 277.
  • "Raranga Whatu, Taniko." Te Puna. Ed. Deirdre Brown and Ngarino Ellis. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2007. 77-97.
  • Other

  • Nga Uri A Papatuanuku: The Descendants of the Earth Mother/Die Nachkommen der Erdmutter. Ed. Sigrid Markmann. Isele Publisher Obema, Osnabruck bilingual editions of marginalised authors, Joint Venture, 1996. 134-159.
  • A collection of thirteen Māori women’s voices - poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Includes images, the clay stories, and a poem on Rimurapa.
  • He Kete He Kōrero. Toi Te Rito Maihi and Maureen Lander. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2005.
  • A collaboration of stories of kete with Maureen Lander providing the photographs and Toi writing the text.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Whanaungatanga." Unpublished paper, [198?].
  • Implications of the whanaungatanga potential in the classroom. This paper was presented at the Auckland Institute of Technology in the 1980s during tutor training.
  • "Spiritual Affliction." Unpublished manuscript.
  • "The Whare - the Female Arts." Unpublished paper, 1991.
  • Maihi gave this paper on the whare at the Museum of New Zealand in 1991. Paki Harrison gave a viewpoint on the male aspects on the whare and Toi gave a talk on the female aspects.
  • Poetry

  • "Mm." No details.
  • "Arohanui." No details.
  • "The Pansy Bush." No details.
  • "The Sausage Machine." No details.
  • "Song of the Stones." Unpublished poem.
  • Maihi wrote this poem after a dawn spent with Richard Nunns.
  • Whakaaro Aroha. Whangarei N.Z.: T.T.R. Maihi, 2003.
  • Toi writes: ‘A book of poems arising from my erstwhile unconscious habit of talking to the various traditional Māori fibres as I weave them!’
  • Reviews

  • Rev. of Te Whatu Taaniko, by Hirini Moko Mead. Craft New Zealand 39 (Autumn 1992): 38.
  • Visual Arts

  • "In My Eyes." Nga Kaupapa Here Ahau: Fibre Interface. n.p: n.p, n.d.
  • This catalogue accompanied a show curated by Toi Maihi and Helen Shamroth. It was the first bicultural fibre show held at Te Taumata Gallery, in Auckland, in 1992. In her catalogue essay Toi Maihi writes of the connections of the artists, the connectedness of the art works, and discusses the art world of Maureen Lander.


  • Leggett, Louise. "People: Toi Maihi." Craft New Zealand 38 (Summer 1991): 36.
  • Reviews

    Pakake! Pakake! Whalesong.
  • Day, Paul. "Contrast Of Māori Writing Styles." Waikato Times 3 Apr. 1993: 14.
  • Sullivan, Robert. "Aimed At The Abuser’s Eye Level." Dominion Sunday Times 26 July 1992: 20.