Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)


Mats. According to the elders of Aitutaki, the four first patterns used in the decorative borders of mats were derived from tattooing. These are the punarua. Fig. 118, the viti, Fig. 122, the tapuae mokora, Fig. 123A, and the matautua, Fig. 123B. The viti is the simplest, and is vouched for as vertical lines of dots. It is curious that Kake Maunga did not mention it in 1906. The other three, as already pointed out, do not agree with the tattooing designs figured. It may be that the chevron design called papavaro by Kake Maunga and pa-maunga by Gudgeon4 may have suggested the rows of continuous triangles that form the technical basis of the three designs. Once they were set up in white or black, various combinations developed in a field that was restricted by the technique of plaiting. The various other motives and designs have been shown in Chapter IV on Mats. They show a distinct advance on anything done in the other Island Groups in Eastern Polynesia.

Tattooing. The tattooing motives are very simple. They mostly consist of straight lines. In the ruru pattern, Fig. 308, curves appear, and also in the parepare, Fig. 306. The most interesting is the tatatao, Fig. 307. Here the curves on the forehead and from the nose round the corner of the mouth correspond with similar motives in Maori tattooing.

Carving. Carving on wood was termed pana. Carving was used to decorate wooden bowls, spears, adze handles, page 368and the large atamira seats. No carved bowls or spears were seen.

Adze handles. The adze handle in the Auckland Museum, Fig. 215, was merely ornamented with notches cut on the sides of the pointed head of the handle and the ridges on the enlargement near the base of the shaft.

A handle seen in a private collection, however, was very neatly carved. The head of the handle was divided into three parts by two deep notches. The carving on the anterior surface of the head continued down to the top of the notch that took the butt of the adze. This is shown in
Figure 314. Carving of handle of Aitutuki adze (from a rubbing by A. J. Driver).

Figure 314.
Carving of handle of Aitutuki adze (from a rubbing by A. J. Driver).

A, anterior surface. B, side.

Fig. 314A, where the effect is quite good. From the level ab, the anterior surface slopes backwards and upwards. The simple carving on the sides of the handle, B, is a repetition of the motive on the lower part of the anterior surface. It will be seen that the design is rectilinear.

Atamira. The atamira seen in Aitutaki was ornamented along the edges of the carved seat by notches. A part of the carving of the atamira in Fig. 45 is shown up in more detail in Fig. 315.

An analysis of the carving shows that it may be divided into three horizontal sections. In the uppermost section there is an upper and a lower row of U-shaped pieces page 369
Figure 315. Carving on large atamira in Auckland Museum.

Figure 315.
Carving on large atamira in Auckland Museum.

gouged out. The gouged cut parts in the lower row are directly below those in the upper. The effect is a row of headless anthropomorphic figures, with arms and legs corresponding to the lower margins of the U-shaped depressions.

In the lowest section, the U-shaped depressions of the lower row are directly below every alternate depression in the upper row. The effect is the same as in the uppermost section, except that what corresponds to the bodies of the anthropomorphic figures is twice the width of those in the upper section.

In the middle section the motive is raised zigzags, running vertically. A similar motive formed the only ornamentation of the edge of the atamira shown in Fig. 43.

Other carving. The only other piece of carving seen was in a piece taken from a church, and with some of the rectilinear figures shown in Fig. 316. This was given to
Figure 316. Carved frame from church.

Figure 316.
Carved frame from church.

page 370 the author as an example of the old-time type of carving, though roughly made with European tools. The vertical panel A shows the orthodox figures, whilst the others are irregular variations, due to poor carving. The upper row shows the lozenge or diamond motive, with various embellishments. The middle and lower rows show variations of the radiating lines. The white in Fig. 316 indicates the level of the original surface, whilst the black shows the parts that have been cut away.

Paintings, Bark cloth. The decorative motives on bark cloth have unfortunatelty been forgottten. The only specimens seen were the plain hapaha cloth that was dyed yellow.

Drum. The painted figures on the pahu drum shown in Fig. 302 are shown in more detail in Fig. 317. The lowest straight lines, with four pairs of short curves and inverted triangles, are painted on the parts between the
Figure 317. Details of figures painted on pahu drum.

Figure 317.
Details of figures painted on pahu drum.

slots near the bottom of the drum. Above a shorter repetition of the same motive come three rows of four triangles, meeting at their apices, and thus forming a kind of Maltese cross figure. The middle and lowest row of crosses are connected by zig-zag lines. The zig-zag lines, again, are page 371connected transversely by curved lines. The upper limbs of the middle row of crosses are opposed by a row of equalsized triangles. The triangles in turn are connected with the lower limbs of the upper row of crosses by zig-zag lines. The zig-zag lines really form the sides of the lower limbs of the cross. Below, the acute angles of the zig-zag lines are also filled in. The edges of the filled-in parts are curved, as they are in the limbs of the middle and lowest rows of crosses, which face each other.

Remarks. The number of examples of carving and painting or dyeing are too few to venture upon a discussion of decorative art motives in Aitutaki. Ruth H. Greiner6 gives a number of Cook Island motives from the richer material available to her. The above few examples are therefore figured merely for record, to assist other workers.