The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)
The domestic furnishings of a dwelling house were very limited. The bed was on the floor and sleeping mats and bark cloth coverings were all that was needed. As regards furniture, the ground provided both tables and seats, but for people of status there were two kinds of seats made, the nohoanga and the atamira.
Wooden seat, nohoanga. The nohoanga was a curved seat supported by four short legs, all carved out of the solid. They were usually made of tamanu wood. The type made was similar throughout the Group. They have become scarce in Aitutaki. The sample shown in Fig. 41 is from Atiu where they are still made for trade purposes.
The dimensions of an average seat are shown in Fig. 42. The middle part of the curved seat is only 4 inches from the ground. The two pairs of short legs are curved outwards towards the ends of the seat and their lower ends are expanded into heart-shaped feet with the points directed inwards towards the middle transverse line of the seat.page 44
Chief's seat, atamira. The atamira form unique looking pieces of furniture. They are larger editions of the nohoanga but owing to their superior status, they are ornamented with carving along both edges of the seat. The examples shown in Figs. 43 and 44 are both in the Auckland Museum. The seat of the smaller one, Fig. 43, is 7 feet 9 inches in length whilst the other is 13 feet 1 inch. An intermediate size, seen in Aitutaki, was 9 feet 5 inches in length. The width of the seat of the smaller one is 1 foot 5½ inches and the other 1 foot 6½ inches. The curve in the smaller one is much greater for, whilst the middle part is 9 inches from the ground, the ends rise up to 1 foot 6 inches, whereas the larger seat is 1 foot from the ground in the middle and 1 foot 4 inches at the ends.
The four legs, which are cut out of the solid, are heart shaped in section and the lower ends only slightly expanded. At the lower ends the dimensions of the legs of the smaller seat are 4 inches by 3 inches, and the sharp edge of each pair is directed towards the middle transverse line of the seat. At the junction of the seat the dimensions are 8 inches by 5 inches, but the points of the sections are turned in the opposite direction.
The edges of the seat project downwards from end to end as can be seen on the left of Fig. 43. Those edges are carved and form a surface 2 inches deep at either end which gradually increases to 3 inches at the middle. In the large atamira, the surface is 2¼ inches at the ends and 3¾ inches at the middle.
The atamira were the seats of the temporal heads of the tribes, ariki, and the chiefs, hui rangatira. When an ariki succeeded to office, it was part of the inducting ceremony to elevate him on an atamira and thus carry him on the shoulders of the people.