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Games and Pastimes of the Maori



This is a simple string game that comes under the generic term Kai that covers all forms of puzzles and games into which enters an element of guessing. A number of players seat themselves in two rows, facing each other. A string is passed down the space between the two rows, and each person grasps the string with both hands, palms downward, thus the string is quite concealed. One player, seated at one end of the ranks, has one end of the string in his mouth, and another acts as guesser; he has to guess where the free end of the string is. The task is by no means an easy one when players are skilful at moving and concealing the string, altering the position of the free end, and making certain movements to deceive the guesser. Thus the free end may be gradually worked back along the ranks, or the whole of the string collected in the hands of one person or in the mouth of the end man, but always the players' hands are kept in position as though still grasping it. There are many ways of baffling the guesser. The following ditty was sung by players as the game progressed:—

"Kura, kura,
Kura winiwini, kura wanawana
Te whaia taku kai nei
Ki te kai patiti, ki te kai patata.
Ka rawe taua ki hea?
Ka rawe taua ki pahu nui, ki pahu roa
Hai tako titi, hai tako tata
Haere pakiaka
To reti kai whea?"

Shortland gives an illustration of the childish amusements of little folk, who had many pastimes of which nothing is now seen. He writes:—"I remember being one day much pleased at seeing some little girls playing at questions and answers. Several little girls were page 179seated in a row on the ground, while another of the party went from one to the other asking a question, to which each was expected to give a different answer. The questions and their answers appeared to be quite familiar, the same question, no doubt, calling forth the same answers on every occasion of the game being played.

Child No. 1, acting as questioner, asks the first little girl of the row:—

  • "He tane aha to tane?"—What is your husband?
  • Answer: "He tane ngaki kumara."—A kumara cultivating husband.
  • No. 1 then says:—"You require a peaceful land and rich soil."
  • No. 1 then inquires of the second child:—"What is your husband?"
  • Answer: "A fishing husband."
  • No. 1 remarks:—"You need calm weather."
  • No. 1 inquires of the third child:—"What is your husband?"
  • Answer: "A fern root digging husband."
  • No. 1 says:—"That is better. You will never be hungry, but always have food in store."

If more children were present, then other answers are made, such as 'a bird snaring husband,' only the last child may claim the root-digging husband, who forms the climax.