The Coming of the Maori
The Passing Scene
The Passing Scene
The old Maori games have practically disappeared and been replaced by games learnt from pakeha children. In the change, the public schools have exercised a great influence, particularly schools attended by both races. This is seen in the forms of skipping and in swings. Tops have survived because they are used by European children but the old chants which accompanied them have been forgotten. Adults no longer take an interest in them, for the social usages with which they were connected have thed out. Kites, if they exist at all, take the pakeha form of construction, and the priests who used them for divination are extinct as a class. Probably no child or adult of to-day would be able to make a dart rise from the ground with the graceful trajectory that earned the plaudits of past generations.
However, survivals occur in a tourist-frequented district such as Rotorua where groups of local Maori give regular entertainments for commercial purposes. In addition to Maori dances and songs, some games such as matimati and touretua were revived to add variety to the programme. As a result, many exponents have become expert. It was probably men from Rotorua who taught the game of matimati to their comrades of the Pioneer Battalion in France during World War I. Once a light train load of Pioneers proceeding to an assignment was held up near the billets of a Yorkshire Battalion. It was a cold morning and our men jumped out to warm themselves with some physical exercise. Instead of slapping their arms aimlessly in the European manner, they quickly paired off and played matimati. The quick slapping of the thighs, the jerking motions of the hands in various directions, and the loud chanting of the count in Maori astounded the Yorkshire men, who gazed open-mouthed at the exhibition of an ancient game which had been carried far from home by the solther descendants of warrior ancestors.
String figures may still be collected from the old people but in diminishing quantity as they pass away. The haka, poi, and, to a less extent, the peruperu war dance have been carried on for social reasons because they still constitute the heartiest form of welcome which a receiving tribe can give to its visitors on important occasions. The visits of English royalty or their representatives have been made the occasion for tribal gatherings in which the ceremonial dances have been revived with increasing difficulty as generations succeed each other. The skill to quiver the fingers and the elasticity of the protruding tongue seem to decrease with the ratio of increase in European education and culture.page 251
In athletic sports the Maori should excel, but lack of systematic training and coaching are probably responsible for their not having done more justice to their inherent capabilities. Of field events, the hop, step and jump is so popular that by many it is erroneously regarded as a native sport Of the major English games, rugby football is as much an obsession as it is with the pakeha, and many Maori players have achieved international fame. Cricket as the summer complement of football has never attained the same popularity. Cricket requires a pitch, a good ground, and special gear that make the preliminary preparations too much of a bother to the country village, whereas a football ground is readily marked off in a neighbouring paddock, goal posts erected and a football purchased without any strain on finances. Tennis was rising in favour as the summer game when I left New Zealand in 1927 and an annual tournament among tribal representatives had become established. Though the game was English, the hospitality extended to competitors was Maori. Thus the changing scene continues changing and the ultimate amalgamation of the two races, in thought at least, is seen in the approaching identity of their sports and pastimes.