The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)
Toys Made From Cocoanut Leaves
Toys Made From Cocoanut Leaves.
(1.) Jew's harp, pokăkăkăkă. The pokakaka was a primitive kind of Jew's harp, and corresponds to the Maori roria. A strip of cocoanut leaflet, about an inch wide, was bent in an arch in front of the teeth, with the ends held in by the cheeks. The tip of the tongue may push the strip forward to increase the tension. A piece of the midrib of a leaflet is held transversely with the left hand across the mouth strip, whilst the right forefinger causes it to vibrate.page 319
Na te vahine takahua e,
Na te vahine takahua e."
By the widowed women, Ah!
By the widowed women, Ah!"
There is nothing outstanding in the composition, but the words suited the instrument. This, after all, is the key to the simplest songs and chants used with Polynesian games. The rough English translations can convey no idea of the rhythm and suitability of the original text.
(2.) Leaflet hoop, potaka. A circle or hoop was made of a strip of leaflet about half an inch wide.
(a) A very simple form was made by overlapping the ends of the strip after forming a circle, and merely pinning them together with a short piece of leaflet midrib.
This toy is said to have been introduced into Aitutaki by the ancestor Ruatapu. After his quarrel with his son, Kirikava, he moved down towards what is now Amuri. Seeing bearers carrying food to the Ariki Taruia, he determined to attract the attention of that high chief. He therefore made a potaka of cocoanut leaflet, which the wind blew along the beach towards Taruia's settlement. The toy was duly picked up and conveyed to the chief. Taruia expressed surprise at this new thing, or pakau. As the cocoanut tree was introduced by Ruatapu and grown at the other end of the island, the surprise of Taruia was probably due not only to the form of the toy, but also to the material from which it was made. The toy, though seemingly insignificant, is of importance in the historical narrative of Aitutaki. The making of such toys should be perpetuated amongst the school children of Aitutaki, as it stresses an important event in the history of their people.
The end of the midrib handle is held at D, and the toy is swung round and round, when it makes the typical bullroarer sound. Hence the name, patangitangi. Sometimes the wind pressure turns the edges of the leaflet strip in above. The toy ceases to make a sound. The edges must be separated slightly to again produce the sound.
There is no history of a wooden bull-roarer until after European influence, but the leaflet toy is definitely ancient. Mr. Drury Lowe informed me that in the Island of Mauke a bull-roarer was made of split cocoanut shell, pierced with holes to produce the roaring sound.
(6.) Leaflet canoe, vaka kopae. A toy canoe was made from the young leaves of the cocoanut palm, as they will not split when pinned together. The leaves of the rauhara pandanus may be used. Two leaflets are trimmed to leave about 13 inches of the leaflet attached to the midrib. About 6 inches of the butt end of the midrib is left at one end, and about 9 inches at the tip end. The two leaflet parts are overlapped slightly and pinned together with pieces of leaflet midrib, Fig. 282A. The longer tip ends of midrib are simply bent over and tied to the butt ends, Fig. 282B.
These toy canoes may be made of any size. Ruatapu, after having aroused the curiosity of Taruia by the leaflet hoop, sent down a vaka kopae. Taruia then sent for him to see what manner of man he was. Tautoru, the son of Varokura, got into trouble with the children at the village of Puhipuhirangi for excelling them in the sailing of his vaka kopae.