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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)

Comparisons with New Zealand. 1

Comparisons with New Zealand. 1

Kete in New Zealand is also the generic name for baskets of the satchel type.

Receptacles for cooked food: The Maori rourou looks something like raurau, but the Aitutaki raurau is derived from rau = leaf, whereas rourou does not give that impression. Both, however, were used to hold cooked food, and formed the commonest food receptacle of both peoples. Just as the raurau held the portion of cooked food from the earth oven, and were laid out before visitors, so the rourou performed a similar function in New Zealand. In form, page 206however, the Maori rourou or kono resembled the ohini, though the technique was different owing to material.

Rough baskets. When in the bush, baskets were made of the New Zealand nikau in lieu of flax. In what way it resembled the tapara basket of Aitutaki cannot be said, as no opportunity has occurred for learning the technique from one who remembers.

The Maori basket that performed the functions of both tapora and kete nikau was made of strips of green flax. Here again a fundamental difference in technique occurred, owing to the material provided by the different flora of the two countries. In both the tapora and the kete nikau the cocoanut leaf midrib provided a commencing edge or rim, and the basket finished at the bottom with a three-ply braid. The Maori was forced to reverse matters. Taking the scraped ends of his disconnected flaxen strips, he plaited them together with a three-ply braid. The strips were added alternately from either side until the length of the basket was reached. The Maori was now in the position of the Aitutakian with her cocoanut leaf. The three-ply braid represented the cocoanut leaf midrib, and the flaxen strips on either side the bilateral leaflets. They both started to plait from this point. There was this difference. The Aitutakian woman could close the other end of the plaiting to form the bottom because she could subsequently split the midrib of her starting edge and open it out to form the rim. The Maori could not subsequently split the three-ply braid and open it out as a rim. Therefore the starting edge had to remain closed as the bottom, and the rim had to be formed at the other end. When the Aitutakian reached the required depth of the basket, she brought the sides in apposition and joined them together with a three-ply braid. She closed the hole to form the bottom. When the Maori reached the required depth, she kept the sides apart and plaited a three-ply braid around the margin. She kept the hole patent by forming the rim. In rough Maori baskets the stroke technique was the check, as in the case of the tapora, seldom the twill, as in the kete nikau.

Fine baskets. As in the case of the fine kete rau baskets of Aitutaki, so the Maori fine baskets were derived in technique and material from the fine floor mats. The flaxen strips were scraped after treatment, with heat, as in the mats. A strip was plaited like a floor mat for twice the page 207proposed length of the basket. The ends were brought, together and joined as in the kete rau. If the basket had been plaited with the proper side out, it was turned inside out and the bottom closed with a floor mat join. The rim was usually finished off with a serrated edge, plaited with exactly the same technique as the Aitutaki patara. It was called whakakitaratara, where we have the same root word, tara, denoting the points of the serrations. Just as the Aitutaki kete nikau took the check technique of their floor mat, so the Maori basket usually took the twill technique of the Maori mats. Both baskets adopted the coloured decoration of their respective mats. The handles were attached in the same way. As in Aitutaki, the development of additional paterns and designs was stimulated in post-European times.

The Maori round baskets of the pati type have no representatives in Aitutaki. The Maori satchels of scutched fibre were a post-European development stimulated by trade and derived from the technique of weaving garments.

Fans.2 The Maori had no fans like other branches of the Polynesian. This was probably due to climate. Rectangular strips were plaited as fire fans. In the west these are called piupiu ahi, but as the word tawhiri means to fan a fire, it is probable that some tribes would use the word tawhiriwhiri for a fire fan. In tawhiri we have the Maori form of tahiri, which enters into the Aitutaki name for a fan. tahirihiri.

1 Te Rangi Hiroa, 1923, I.

2 Te Rangi Hiroa, 1924, I.