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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)

Darts, teka

Darts, teka.

The throwing of darts as a game is universal throughout Polynesia. In Aitutaki it has not been quite abandoned, though it is almost on the verge of being numbered amongst the things of the past. The darts, or teka, are made from a cane also known as teka. There are five varieties used on the island.

(1.) Okaoka. The okaoka was made of teka cane or a slim rod of hau. It was up to two spans in length. The front end was usually bound round with a strip of hau bast, or pandanus. A head of hard wood, such as was used in Niue, was unknown. The extra length made the dart go straighter. It was thrown with both hands. The right hand grasped the end, whilst the other hand held the shaft.

(2.) Tumutumu. The tumutumu was always of teka cane. It was much shorter than the okaoka, being from 2 to 4 feet in length. The length was a question of individual preference, as some could cast a short dart further than a longer one. In a competition held between the various villages, quite a number of competitors had short page 336darts, about 2 feet 3 inches long. None of these, however, were successful. The darts used by the most skilful were of medium length, about 3 feet 9 inches.

The front end of the tumutumu is bound round with a strip of hau bast, which may or may not be twisted into a cord on the thigh. The fibre of the banana, kua, is also a favourite binding material. One end of the strip was covered over completely by the winding. Towards the end of the binding a loop was made, over which the binding was continued. To finish off, the free end of the strip was passed through the loop, the loop was drawn back under the binding, and the free end of the strip was bitten off.

Figure 290.Throwing the short teka dart, tumutumu.

Figure 290.
Throwing the short teka dart, tumutumu.

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The bound end was called the kouma. It was so bound to correct the tendency of the dart to fly upwards, rere tuarangi. If the dart goes too high it loses distance. The dart is first tested by throwing, and the kouma bound on afterwards to correct any deficiency. Over the binding a coating of breadfruit gum, tapou, is spread, to give the kouma even consistency. The teka cane selected is fairly thin, being from 3/10ths to 2/5ths of an inch in diameter. The tumutumu is thrown with one hand, as in Fig. 290.

(3.) Teka ta manuhiri. This form of dart is made from a piece of teka cane about 1 foot 4 inches long, with a piece of cocoanut midrib stuck in one end. The cane has a pith canal, into which the leaflet midrib is easily stuck. The midrib forms the tail of the dart.

The dart is thrown with a strip of hau bast. One end of the throwing strip is knotted with an overhand knot. This end is passed transversely round the node nearest the tail end and the strip brought over its own end close to the knot, Fig. 291A. The node helps to keep the turn of the throwing strip from slipping along the shaft.

Figure 291.Position of throwing strip on teka ta manuhiri.

Figure 291.
Position of throwing strip on teka ta manuhiri.

A, before release. B, after release.

The strip is drawn taut along the shaft to near the front end. A few turns are taken round the right forefinger. With the throwing strip taut, the front end of the dart is seized between the right forefinger and thumb. The dart is then cast. Before release the pressure of the taut strip over its knotted end keeps the turn of the strip in position. The throwing strip gives a longer purchase in casting, in the same manner as the throwing stick of the Australian aborigines. As the dart goes forward past the finger holding the strip, the turn over the knot automatically releases, Fig. 291B.

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(4.) Teka kiore. The teka kiore is formed from a short piece of wood about 10 inches long. It is a little thicker than the thumb and is sharpened at one end. A cocoanut leaflet midrib is stuck into the blunt end to form a tail, Fig. 292.

Figure 292.The tika kiore dart.

Figure 292.
The tika kiore dart.

The dart is thrown with one hand against a mound to cause it to rise high in the air. Height, and not distance, was desired. As my informant, Kahu, said, "It rises high amongst the tree tops, and seems to climb them like a rat" (kiore). This ascribed resemblance gives the dart the name of teka kiore.

(5.) Teka kokihi. The kokihi is a wooden rod thrown with a cord attached to a handle. The game is played on the beach. A cord of hau, with an overhand knot at one end is attached to a handle. The knot on the free end of the cord is fixed to one end of a stick by a turn, in exactly the same manner as the teka ta manuhiri. Two or three loose turns are taken round the rod to bring the cord near the front end, Fig. 293. The rod is laid on the ground, and a sharp jerk sends the dart forward. The release is the same as in the teka ta manuhiri.

Figure 293.The teka kokihi dart, with throwing cord on handle.

Figure 293.
The teka kokihi dart, with throwing cord on handle.

Casting the teka. The old word for casting the teka is uka. The okaoka, was thrown with both hands into the air. The tumutumu was held with the right forefinger over the unbound end. This end was trimmed to suit the taste of the owner. Some were cut straight across, others slanted, and others grooved to fit the forefinger. With the forefinger bent over the end, the shaft was gripped between the thumb page 339and middle finger. In advancing to throw, the teka was held in a natural position across the breast. The player took his run, and as he neared the mark he brought the right hand back to full stretch, turned sideways, and, stooping, dashed the teka forwards and downwards, so that the head struck glancing against the ground immediately to the front. A slight rise in the ground favours the throw, but no artificial mound was made. In fact, the properly cast dart will rise off the level ground. The dart glances off the ground, and the effect is surprising. A good cast will rise in a swift, low trajectory, reach its maximum height like a golf ball, and come gracefully down. It is the straight throw with the right trajectory that denotes skill. A poor throw will not rise, or will rise too high, and so lose distance. Some strong throws will turn to the right or left, and also lose distance. The competition is for distance. Distance cannot be obtained unless direction is maintained, as well as strength and trajectory. In competitions there are no restrictions as to the length of the dart. The long okaoka may compete against the short tumutumu. Skill will conquer in either case. Hence the challenge issued by the advocates of the short dart:

Homai a okaoka kia tumutumu.
 Bring the okaoka against the tumututmu.

To this, the others replied:—

Homai a tumutumu kia okaoka.
 Bring the tumutumu against the okaoka.

Scoring. In matches all the competitors had one throw from a given mark. They could take as long a run as they liked, but crossing the mark disqualified the throw. The longest throw counted one. The first competitor to reach six won. The counting of the numbers is not the usual numeration, but is peculiar to the game. The words are given with the ordinary words in brackets.

1.Kereti (Tahi).
2.Karua (Rua).
3.Kiha (Toru). Ha means four.
4.Kiono (Ha). Ono means six.
5.Ituku (Rima).
6.Re (Ono). Re means victory.

A dead heat between throws is called mua te kai.

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Competition. The ancient game was revived during the author's visit by a competition of teams of five men from each of the seven villages. It was a most graceful game to watch, and should not be allowed to die out. One competitor tried the teka ta manuhiri, but it did not prove successful. All the others used the tumutumu, with the exception of a man from Manihiki. He used the Manihiki dart, which is made from the midrib of a cocoanut leaf. It was about 6 feet 9 inches long, with a sharpened point, and the other end notched. It was thrown forward with both hands, and ran along the ground. It needs a hard ground to have any chance against the tumutumu. Here the ground was against it yet it succeeded in scoring one point. The longest throw, of 86 yards, was recorded by one Tahunga, who is shown in Fig. 290.

Tradition. The game of teka is said to have originated with Ngata, an ariki of Iva, in the Marquesas. Young men went to Ngata and asked him what was the rare mataora, the most exciting game. He replied that it was the casting of darts. The young men returned to their homes, but owing to their lack of skill they had to return to Ngata for lessons. Whilst Ngata was showing them, he recited an incantation which caused his dart to disappear over the horizon, te pae o te rangi.

Dart Incantation.
Ka uka te uka i te teka a Ngata,
Ka piri ki te tihi o rangi.

Cast the cast of the dart of Ngata,
It reaches to the summit of the sky.

Thus the knowledge of the skilled casting of the teka dart comes from Ngata-ariki, of the Land of Iva.

In the legend of Varo-kura, we find that the game of teka was played at the village of Puhipuhirangi, in the Hidden Land of Taki-nuku-akau. Tautoro, the son of Varokura, defeated the children of Puhipuhirangi in a game of teka. They were evidently bad sports, for they assaulted him, and thus caused him to leave for the land of Hiti-kau in search of his father. The children of Puhipuhirangi were said to have excelled at all games, and the phrase, "Tamariki Puhipuhirangi" (children of Puhipuhirangi) became associated with high proficiency in any game.

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