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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)



The raurau is really not a basket, but a platter of cocoanut leaflets, upon which cooked food was placed. They were quickly made and were cast aside when their immediate use was over. There were two forms seen in Aitutaki.

Figure 142.First variety of food platter, raurau.

Figure 142.
First variety of food platter, raurau.

(1.)The simples from was made as follows:—
A piece of cocoanut leaf carrying seven leaflets on either side is cut off. This is split down the midrib and any extra thickness of midrib is split off. The two midrib strips are then reveresed so that they lie with the butt end of one page 164towards the tip end of the other . In this position, the two sets of leaflets cross each other and are ready for plaiting. The two midrib strips are shown in fig. 143, where A represents the upper one with the leaflets running towards the left, whilst the other, B, run naturally towards
Figure 143. Technique of first variety of raurau.

Figure 143.
Technique of first variety of raurau.

the right. This is, of course, with the midrib strips towards the plaited. The two sets of leaflets are plaited with a check stroke, the set from B being manipulated as dextrals. The side edges are formed turning the leaflet by in with a half turn when they have no crossing leaflet to interlace with. The plaiting is continued until the platter is judged large enough. If all the crossing wefts are interlaced with
Figure 144. Second variety of food platter, raurau.

Figure 144.
Second variety of food platter, raurau.

page 165the check stroke, the appearance shown in the Figure is arrived at. The leaflets are arranged in two sets of seven, whilst the plaited part comes to a point, at E. The last two crossing leaflets, D and C, are knotted together with a reef knot, at E. This fixes the plaited portion.

The remaining six leaflets on either side are knotted together, as in Fig. 142. The nearer leaflets on either side may be interlaced further for a few strokes before the knotting takes place.

(2.)The second variety, Fig. 144, though it looks less substantial than the first, is more complicated in technique. It is formed of four strips of cocoanut leaf midrib, each strip carrying four or five leaflets. Two of the midrib strips are placed end to end at a slight angle, Fig. 145. The leaflets from A are interlaced in a check plait with those from B, as shown. The leaflets of the other two midrib
Figure 145. Commencement of second variety of food platter.

Figure 145.
Commencement of second variety of food platter.

strips are dealt with similarly. The two triangular-shaped pieces of plaiting are then placed apex to apex with the free ends of the leaflets over-lapping. These crossing leaflets are plaited to continue the check technique, Fig. 146. In the upper part of the figure it is the wefts from B and D which cross. As those from B lean towards the right, they are treated as dextral wefts for separation into two sets of alternates, whilst the sinistrals from D pass between. The work is then turned round, when the leaflets from C will form the dextrals, and those from A, the sinistrals. These are plaited together and the result is seen in Fig. 146, where the shaded leaflets form the original two triangles. All the leaflets are tightened up by pulling on the ends of the four sets marked D, B, C, and A. These four sets may be separately knotted or run along in a page 166three-ply braid for a short distance before knotting. As there are four leaflets in each set, one of the plies of the braid will contain two leaflets.
Figure 146. Technique of second food platter.

Figure 146.
Technique of second food platter.

A better finish is given to the raurau by forming an edge as in Fig. 147. Thus the top leaflet of the series D is bent over at right angles and plaited back through the other three of the series. The others follow in sequence. The top leaflet of the series B, is then turned over to the right and interlaced with the other three. The others follow in
Figure 147. Side edge of food platter.

Figure 147.
Side edge of food platter.

sequence. The ends of the leaflets are knotted and we have a turned edge, as shown in Fig. 147. The leaflets on the left pass behind the first crossing weft and those on the right in front. This is dictated by the check technique.
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Use. The pulling taut of the ends of the leaflets ere knotting, gives the platter a slight concavity and it acts as a plate. At feasts, long rows of raurau are laid down beside the earth oven. The food is distributed over them and each person receives his ration on a raurau.

At dances the young people often use a raurau as a head-dress. The leaflets at the centre are separated and the head inserted through the hole thus formed. The sides curve upwards and give quite a good appearance.

Traditional Raurau.

In the history of Hiro, the well-known voyager (Whiro of the Maori), a raurau played an important part in the causation of the war waged by Hiro on the Ati-Puna tribe. A turtle caught by some of Puna's people could not be carried home by them. Hiro cut off its head (porau), placed it on a raurau named Tiraha-pu-ki-te-rangi, and sent it by his youngest son, Tautn, to the high chief or ariki, Puna. Tautu presented the turtle's head, saying, "O Puna, the ariki, here is food. This is the first uncooked portion. The second cooked portion is following." But Puna's wise men asserted that the body of the turtle had been eaten by Hiro at Motupae. In spite of his protestations to the contrary, Tautu was killed and his head cut off. Then the spirit of Tautu, after visiting his father, returned to his decapitated head and commenced a competition in argument with the wise men of Puna. The head of Tautu spoke, "O Puna, the ariki! What was the sin of Tautu that caused him to be extinguished and killed by a spear?" Puna called to two of his wise men, "Topa and Tovananga, answer. What was the sin of Tautu?" The two wise men replied, "What then was the sin of the food platter named Tiraha-pu-ki-te-rangi?" The head of Tautu spoke up, "But the turtle remains. It was not eaten." The argument went on until the last two wise men of the six, Ta-uhu and Ta-pakati, declared, "We have discovered no sin of Tautu." Tautu had thus obtained the re korero, the victory of words in the argument. Then the sinless Tautu spoke from the severed head "The clear light of day floods an open space. The sin is the sin of the fruitless pandanus of the woods. This is the victory of words. To-morrow there will be the victory of spears, when your head will be carried away by my father, Hiro, to his home at Motupae."

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Figure 148.The ohini food basket.

Figure 148.
The ohini food basket.