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The Coming of the Maori

Curvilinear Motifs

Curvilinear Motifs

The curvilinear motifs so characteristic of Maori carving are conspicuously absent in Polynesia. The nearest approach is in the Marquesas where a square fret was occasionally used on bowls, clubs, and images. In images, it was particularly used on the ear lobe. On the heads of some stone pounders, the square fret has been rounded into a single spiral. Marquesan art, though dominantly rectilinear, used curves and ellipses to a great extent, mainly through the use of a conventional eye as a frequent motif. Concentric circles are common on the carved paddles of Raivavae. Curves and curls occur in the tapa designs of some Polynesian groups but they rarely develop into the simple coil or spiral.

In New Zealand, curves and loops were common. The progression of the curved lips and tongue of a human profile to form interlocking loops with the curved lips of a manaia is clearly shown on the carved hafts of ceremonial adzes (Fig. 38a).The use of interlocking loops formed of lips, tongue, limbs and extra loops became popular in the complex designs fitted into the spaces around the main human figures. Loops were usually provided with manaia heads but with the increase in their use, it must have tested the ingenuity and skill of the artists to provide manaia heads for the loops, or loops for the manaia heads. In some of the Taranaki lintels, loops were repeated without heads and the loop formed an independent motif.