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Games and Pastimes of the Maori


page 174


A childish pastime. It is played by three or more children, and with the three others described below, represents simple pastimes practised by young children in pre-European times. The writer has seen children joining in these simple pastimes in the Tuhoe district as recently as the year 1900, and, by making friends with the children, was enabled to watch and describe their amusements. A small sum of money judiciously expended in the purchase of jews harps and sweets may often advance the science of ethnography.

Fig. 51 Children playing the game of Upoko-titi. These young folk are of the Whan-ganui district and were not acquainted with the pastime; their fingers are not in the correct position. The description of the game was obtained at Ruatahuna in 1898. Dominion Museum Photo

Each of the players crooks the little finger of the right hand over the next finger, the latter over the next finger, and that over the forefinger; the latter and thumb are kept close together. The left hand is then manipulated in a similar manner. One player then holds out his, or her, right hand, with forefinger pointed downward. Another holds his right hand in a like position just above it, with tip of forefinger resting lightly on the back of the hand of No. 1. Each player acts in a similar manner, after which they put their page 175left hands on the column, No. 1 commencing the movement. See Fig. 51 (p. 174). When all have their hands in position, he whose hand is uppermost repeats:—

'Te upoko titi, te upoko tata
Ki te wai nui, ki te wai roa.
Whakatangihia te pupu
Haere ki to kainga!" (Go to your home.)

As he repeats the last word, he lifts the hand next his own and thrusts it away, and the owner of that hand holds it so that the index finger just touches his own breast. The above jingle is again repeated and another hand plucked away, and so on until all the hands are disposed of, and are held with forefinger against the breast. The leader, he who repeats the ditty, then asks "Ma wai taku ihu e kai?" (Who shall eat my nose?) One will reply "Ma te atua" (The demon will). The leader then says "Waewae nunui, waewae roroa, pokia ki te ahi" (Big feet, long feet, cover with fire). At the repetition of the last word all the children throw their hands downward as though casting something down. The leader then asks "Ma wai taku kanohi e kai? (Who shall eat my face?), and so on, naming different parts of the body, the above described performance being gone through each time. The final question is, "Ma wai taku tinana katoa e kai?" (Who shall eat my whole body?) The writer is not clear as to the meaning or point of this pastime, and possibly some item has been overlooked.

It is a curious and interesting fact that the above pastime is practised by native children in Queensland. In the Report of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science for 1902, appears, at p. 484, a presidential address by Mr. W. E. Roth, the subject of which is Games, Sports, and Amusements of the Northern Queensland Aboriginals. At p. 498 is described the above game, the hands of the players being placed, with fingers twisted over each other, one on the other, as in the Maori game. This is clearly shown in Plates 16, 25 and 26 of the above work. The hands are also lifted off one by one, and the sport is brought to a more rational conclusion than shown above. In his work on Head Hunters, A. C. Haddon gives some account of a similar game played in New Guinea. This occurs at pp. 229-230, and a curious resemblance is noted to the Maori form of the pastime.