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Games and Pastimes of the Maori

The Karetao or Jumping Jack

The Karetao or Jumping Jack

This peculiar toy is called karetao and keretao by the Tuhoe folk, karari among Ngati-Porou, and toko-raurape in the far north. It is a wooden figure carved in human form, the legs of which are prolonged so as to provide a hand grip, the whole being about fifteen inches in length. The figure is carved out of the solid, with the exception of the arms, which are separate pieces and loosely attached by means of small cords passed through holes pierced in the shoulders of the figure. See Fig. 49 (p. 172). These two cords are tied together behind the figure. The manipulator holds the figure in an upright position in one hand by grasping the projecting hand hold at its base. With the other hand he holds the cord, and by alternately pulling and slackening it, he causes the arms to assume different positions, both projecting forwards, or backwards, or one forward and one backward, etc. At the same time, by shaking his left hand, which holds the toy, he causes the arms to quiver in imitation of a person performing a haka, or posture dance, a vibratory motion termed whākapakapa.

In some cases these figures were adorned with carved designs, and a well finished one had the face marked with the lines of tattoo seen on a man's face, and blackened in a similar manner. While going through this performance, the operator sang certain ditties used only in this connection, and in which it is difficult to see any sense. The following specimen of such was obtained from an old Tuhoe native:—

"Kohine, kohine
Tutara koikoi tara ra
Wheterotero koi arai ake
To marutuna, to maruwehi."

These songs are known as oriori karetao.

There are several karetao in the Grey Collection at Auckland. See Fig. 48 (p. 171). An old specimen was presented by the Tuhoe natives to Lord Ranfurly at a native meeting at Ruatoki in 1903. In Fig. 49 (p. 172) we see two views of a good old specimen, and these show clearly the attachment of the cord. page 171 Fig. 48 Three Karetao in Auckland Museum W. R. Reynolds, Photo When about to be used this cord was freed from the waist line and manipulated as described above.

The following were contributed by Tuta Nihoniho, of Ngati-Porou, being jingles sung during the karari performance:—


'Ako au ki te kohiti, kaore te kohiti
Ako au ki te whewhera, kaore te whewhera
E kohiti nuku, e kohiti rangi
E kohiti te poro, poro toiene toi."


"Karari, karari
Kara rere ki te pukei rangiora
E homai ana e te korero
Wai ra te ngutu te pepepe
Wai ra nei taku hika
Hika ka kai werohia
Ki raro koawa, koawa koha."

page 172

Fig. 49 Two views of a Karetao, or Jumping Jack H. Hamilton, Photo

In The Adventures of Kimble Bent we read that, at the Tauranga-ika pa, near Wai-totara, the Hauhau garrison constructed a huge karetao, or jumping jack, and set it up over the stockade of the fort. Ropes pulled from the trench below caused the arms of this figure to move as did those of the toy article. Presumably this was an act of defiance toward the hated white men.

These jumping jacks seem to have been assigned special names in some cases. An old one belonging to the Tuhoe clan was named Tukemata-o-rangi; it had an oriori karetao song specially composed for it.