The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)
Main Motives in Decorative Bands
Main Motives in Decorative Bands.
The women of the seven villages plaited samplers showing all the designs and motives they could think of, for the purposes of this work. An old lady, Te Pora-a-te Paki, maintained that there were only four main motives in heathen days and that all the others were post-European in development. Be this as it may, all the motives are of their own creating, for no Europeans could teach them anything in plaiting. Some are undoubtedly meant to page 144represent objects of European introduction. The names for some of the motives vary with different villages. On pointing out this discrepancy, I was asked to express an opinion as to which was the more appropriate name. These were obviously of more recent origin.
The four original motives were the Viti, Punarua, Tapuae mokora and Matautua. They were said to have been derived from tattooing motives.
Punarua. The punarua consists of white squares set on a corner and were composed of three white dextrals crossing three coloured sinistrals, Fig. 118. As a tattooing motive, they were placed on the back and on the thighs.
Tapuae Mokora. This is also called vaevae mokora, duck's feet, and consists of a horizontal line of continuous white triangles. Each triangle consists of three white dextrals which respectively cross three, two and one coloured sinistrals, Fig. 123A.
From the above four motives, a number of variations have been made.
Katikativai. This motive consists of two rows of viti that touch, Fig. 124A. It is generally used as dividing lines between individual repetitions of a main motive as Fig. 105. It may also be used to fill a space as in the left of the sampler, Fig. 140B 1. The village of Vaipae. where the sampler was made, called the motive hakihaki takitahi.page 146
Hetu Matariki. If the columns of katikativai are broken up into sets of four, as in Fig. 124B, the motive becomes hetu matariki. Little-eyed stars. They are used to fill corners or coloured spaces, and so fasten down long stretches of sinistrals, as in Fig. 136C and Fig. 138.
Mata ha. The mata ha motive consists of four white squares with their corners touching, Fig. 124C. Each square consists of two or more white dextrals crossing a like number of sinistrals, Figs. 104 and 105. The white squares may run in two continuous lines, Fig. 106. This latter form may also be used as a border motive, Fig. 139A.
Nihoniho. Nlhoniho, toothed, consists of vertical rows of twilled twos or threes Fig. 125. As a mesial motive, it is seen on the left of the double paretumu. mat, Fig. 107. In a wide border, it is sometimes used as a pange border instead of the usual ara veri, Figs. 139C and 140A.
From the vaevae mokora and matautua motives, the varying treatment of small triangles produce a number of different motives.
Matakere. If another row of the white triangles of the vaevae mokora motive is inverted above so that the apices of the two rows touch, the matakere motive is produced, Fig. 126. This is also shown in the sampler band, Fig. 140A 3 The name is said to be old, but its meaning has been forgotten. There is no plant of that name and if it was derived from some pakau (material thing), that object is not known. My informants suggested that it was derived from a tattooing motive.
Emu. A vertical arrangement of the last motive is called emu by the Arutanga people, but in Ureia it is called matakere. It can only be used in a deep band which gives enough space to develop its vertical direction. In Fig. 139A 1, made at Ureia, it must be regarded as matakere and in Fig. 140A 1, made at Arutanga, it must be considered as emu.
Karamarama. The name with its other form, maramarama, means light and has come to be applied to window. It again is a variation of the matakere motive in Fig. 126. page 148In the karamarama motive the apices of the two rows of white triangles are separated by two check dextrals. When the long axis of the motive is vertical. it is called karamarama hakatu, upright window, Fig. 128. When the long axis is horizontal, it is karamarama hakatakakoto, the lying down window, Fig. 129.
The white dextrals form the frame of the window and the resemblance of the upper part to the Gothic window of a church gave the motive its name. It is thus a postmissionary variation of an old motive. My informants also told me that the motive represented the light of Christianity. As an example of symbolism, the usage is of course modern and was based on a play of words together with the association of the motive with a church window. Maramarama is the term applied to the spread of Christianity and Light.
The upright window motive is seen in Fig. 139C 1.
We now come to an allied group of four motives which form very neat continuous designs. They are the rau nahe, maire, vahanga marama, and pupu.
Rau nahe. The rau, nahe is the neatest of the four and the most commonly used, Fig. 131. It consists of continuous lines of a short zig-zag running upwards towards the right. The corners are formed by three white dextrals crossing five, three and one coloured sinistrals. The next corner is immediately formed by three dextrals crossing five, three and one sinistrals, but in such manner as to direct the line at right angles to its previous course. The zig-zag line is continued across the mesial area until it disappears at the upper boundary of the space. Meanwhile, however, other lines have been commenced. The white lines are separated by coloured lines of twilled threes. A good example of the page 150rau nahe is shown in Fig. 139A 3. The motive takes its name from a fanciful resemblance to the pinnate leaf of the nahe fern, Marattia fraxinea.
Maire. If instead of making the next corner as soon as one is finished, the vertical and horizontal lines are lengthened by adding a number of twilled threes between the corner elements, Fig. 132 results.
As in the previous motive, the corners are made in the same way and the white zig-zag lines are separated by coloured lines of twilled threes. The motive is named after the pinnate leaf of the maire fern. The motive is shown in Fig. 140B 3, and a full design in Fig. 139A 4.
Vahanga marama. In this variation, one corner is formed and the next corner bisected so to speak, and slipped down three weft spaces, Fig. 133.page 151
It will be noted that the three elements which go to form a corner after being slipped down are now opposite the coloured line of twilled threes. As the bisecting always occurs on the same sinistral, the effect of the design is to show a number of right-angled figures arranged in oblique panels. The appearance is compared to a half moon, vahanga marama. At the upper part of Fig. 133, a number of short pieces are shown where the full figure could not be completed. They have to be put in to prevent the upper coloured elements from crossing too wide a space. The motive is also shown in Fig. 139B 1.
Pupu. The corners of the vahanga, marama are again bisected and the result is shown in Fig. 134.
Here we get a series of short vertical and horizontal lines arranged in oblique panels, with the ends of the white lines bounded by the coloured twilled threes of the adjoining panel. The appearance is seen in Fig. 139B 4 and in Fig. 140B 5.
My experience with the name of this motive is a useful lesson against taking anything for granted. Pupu is a general name for the various species of turbo shell-fish, both in New Zealand and the Cook Group. My imagination had been severely taxed in trying to recognise the resemblance of the three previous motives to the objects they were named after. The resemblance between a series of straight lines and the spiral turbo was too much even for my faith. I asked my instructress where the resemblance lay. "Oh," she said, "not that pupu. It is the pupu of the bunching together of the strips of material during the making of the border, not the shell-fish." Pupu also means "bunched together" in New Zealand, but who would have suspected page 152that after naming the first three of the series after material things, the fourth would derive its name from technique. "Kare i te pupu anga," she said, "e pupu no te kohianga." "Not the pupu with a shell," she said, "but the pupu of the bunching of the picked up wefts." It sounded quite convincing. When, however, it is realised that the other three motives are pupu in the kohianga in that they all have the dextrals picked up in threes to provide a shed for the sinistral, they have as much right to the pupu name as the one that actually received it. It is therefore likely that the pupu motive, after searching the realm of material objects vainly for a name, had at last to fall back on technique to supply the deficiency.
Rau nikau. The rau nikau takes somewhat after the maire but the lines are in sets with one angle and are not continuous, Fig. 135.
The midrib of the cocoanut leaf must be imagined in Fig. 135A, whilst it is shown in Fig. 135B. It is a motive that has to be repeated individually, as the lowest horizontal leaflet has to balance its vertical pair. It can thus be only as long as the depth of the mesial space in the band. In Fig. 140A 2, the four white checks at the top were smilingly referred to as the fruit.
The motive is also named pa rakau or pekapeka rakau, the branch of a tree. This motive throws light on the two previous fern leaf motives, the rau nahe and the maire. Both these ferns are pinnate, so the midrib must be imagined as running diagonally downwards from the left through the points of the angles and thus having short leaflets on either side. In the rau nikau, the imaginary, or real midrib, runs upwards towards the right. It soon runs out and has to be individually repeated, whereas the rau nahe and maire are repeated continuously.page 153
The formation of the sides by check or twill enables the squares to be set at right angles with the edge of the band. Solid squares in white must lie diagonally as in the punarua motive. Small boxes in check are shown in Fig. 139C 3, and in twill in Fig. 139B 5.
Honu. A variation of the check box has a solid and therefore oblique square at each corner, composed of three twilled threes, Fig. 136C. As the interior of the figure is fairly large, four checks are placed in the central part in the form of "little stars." This not only enhances the appearance of the figure, but serves to break the long course of the three middle sinistrals.
Of the obviously modern motives, the following are given as examples.
Ata. The ata or heart motive is shown in Fig. 138A. The human heart is manava and ata is the native way of saying heart, but the heart represented by the plaiting motive is the heart suit of playing cords.
Peti. Peti is the Aitutaki pronunciation of the spade suit in cards. It differs from the heart motive in having a straight line or stalk and an extra filling, Fig. 138B. The spade motive is also shown in Fig. 139A 2.
Some very modern motives were made on the samplers prepared for me by the different villages. A few are shown in Figs. 139 and 140. Some of the women seem to have invented a few for the occasion, and in the deeper area covered on the samplers, certain combinations were worked that would not have been possible on the more restricted field of the proper mat bands. The modern motives, whilst ingenious, do not give the pleasing effect of the older motives.
Manga rakau, the branches of a tree, Fig. 140B 2. This is a variation of the rau nikau motive just above it in A2.
Vana. sea urchin, Fig. 140B 4. The lines radiating out from the central square represent the spines of the sea urchin or echidna.
Papaka. crab, Fig. 140C 1. This motive is really ingenious in its lines and the name is apt.page 155
Decorative Motives Worked on Samplers.
1, Vahanga marama; 2, Letter K; 3, Letter T; 4, Pupu;
5, Piha rikirihi in twill; 6, Kopela.page 156
1, Karamarama hakatu; 2, Tahirihiri; 3, Piha rikiriki (check).
Border motives: A, Mata ha; B Ara veri; C, Nihoniho.
Korona, crown, Fig. 140C 3. This might very well be a species of crab but the artist named it a crown and there is sufficient in its appearance to justify her.
Tavahanga, pieces, Fig. 140C 4. The plaiter must have run short of an orthodox motive and purposely scattered the dextral wefts about to give the idea of pieces or remnants.