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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)

Head-Dresses, Pare

Head-Dresses, Pare.

Anything worn on the head came under the generic term of pare. They varied from a garland of leaves to the elaborate head-dresses of the ariki class, which were built up on an actual skull cap made of sinnet.

Temporary pare made of leaves were used as sun screens when the people were working on their cultivations. Whatever suitable plant grew near was quickly plaited or twisted into a band or wreath that gave the necessary protection to the head. The people were very fond of wearing flowers and greenery and even when sun protection was not actually needed, a pare was worn for decoration. At dances, feasts and festivals, pare of this type were appropriate. Pare rauti, braided with the leaves of the Dracaena, were worn at dances. Pare of the leaves of the page 91ngatoro plant were also used as a sun screen. Leaves of the maire fern were so used.

Pare tainoka were made of the tainoka creeper that grows on, the beach. This plant is common on the islands in the lagoon. The long creeping stems with the attached leaves are simply twisted round to form a wreath. As the stems are of a yellowish colour, the pare is ornamental as well as useful.

Wreaths made of flowers, the drupes of the pandanus and the red berries of the porohiti interspersed with scented herbs were also worn at feasts, umu kai. These are purely decorative.

For the pare of a more permanent nature, the basis seems to have been made of sinnet.

Pare kaha. Kaha is a cord of sinnet fibre. High conical caps, somewhat resembling the Egyptian tarboush, were formerly made of kaha and thus received the name of pare kaha. They are not now made on Aitutaki and a specimen could not be obtained. They were said, however, to be of exactly the same technique as those of Atiu, which are still made. The pare kaha seen from Atiu was made by coiled weaving but the details of technique belong to the material culture of that island.

Pare huka rau. This was said to be a pare ariki, the head-dress of a high chief. None were to be seen. In Rarotonga, however, the pare ariki of the Makea family was formed of a very old pare kaha to the outside of which a wooden framework carrying feathers was attached. In the historical story of the famous Marouna, some pare of this kind must have figured. In order that he might speedily go from Rarotongs to Aitutaki to the aid of his grandfather, Maeva-i-te-rangi, he is said to have bought the canoe "Te mata-koviriviri" from Angainui with a part of his head-dress, tetahi manga i te pare. It seems likely that he gave some part of the wooden framework carrying the feathers to indicate the transmission of some of his power or authority over land, or other material benefit.

Pare kura. The pare kura was the head-dress of a chief. It consisted of a pare kaha to which feathers such as those obtained from the small island of Manuae, were attached. Though kura means red, the feathers on a pare kura were not necessarily red. They were probably red in the period and place when and where the name was first applied. When migrations took place to regions where red page 92feathers became unprocurable or difficult to obtain, other feathers were used of necessity, but the head-dress retained its name of pare kura from its continued association with chieftainship. The feathers were sometimes tied to the midribs of cocoanut leaflets and attached to the sinnet skull cap.

There was another pare concerning which little information could be obtained beyond its name. The hare karioi already mentioned as having stood at Vaitupa, was built by a tahunga expert named Rahui. Rahui wore a head-dress called a pare kauhatu and hence was known as Rahui-pare-kauhatu. What form of head-dress it was my informants were unable to suggest.

Rarotongan Head-dress. Though the head-dresses of the chiefs of Aitutaki have entirely disappeared, the author had the privilege of examining the pare ariki of Makea Ariki of Rarotonga. It is the only surviving chief's headdress on the island. The sinnet cone-shaped cap that forms its basis is shown in Fig. 82. This was covered with feathers tied to light rods and gave the imposing appearance evident in Fig. 83.

Figure 82.Sinnet foundation of Head-dress of Makea Ariki

Figure 82.
Sinnet foundation of Head-dress of Makea Ariki

Figure 83.Head-dress of Makea Ariki. with feathers attached.

Figure 83.
Head-dress of Makea Ariki. with feathers attached.

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The feathers are of cock's plumage and the long red tail feathers of the tropic-bird, Phaeton rubricauda. The feathers were changed with each new ariki but the sinnet cap had been in the Makea family for several generations. As the feathers shown in Fig. 83 had been recently put on for the raising of Makea Tinirau to the ariki position, we raised no objection when, with his innate courtesy, Makea removed them to enable a closer study of the really old sinnet cap to be made. The rods carrying the feathers had been sewn on with strong cotton and there was no detail of old technique that could be destroyed.

The sinnet cap had been made in Atiu. In Fig. 82, it will be noted that the lower part consists of horizontal rows that had been done by coiled work. This is the present technique of the Atiu sinnet caps already referred to as pare kaha. The upper part, however, consists of vertical rows of alternate black and natural brown sinnet. This work is no longer known. The technique appeared to resemble the two-pair interlocking weft used in the better class of New Zealand garments. The view of the cap is from the side. The rows from the front and back can thus be seen meeting in a line that extends upwards from the middle of the sides to meet at the apex.

From the construction of the Rarotongan pare ariki with a sinnet cap and feathers tied to sticks, it would seem to correspond to the Aitutaki pare kura.