Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)

Comparisons with New Zealand

Comparisons with New Zealand.

Fowling. The principle of the marei fowl trap has been described by Best2 and recently figured by Downes3 in the Maori tawhiti rat trap. In the Maori form of trap there were two arched sticks, and the cross stick lay between them. There was no running noose, but a fixed loop. The rat passed through the loops to a bait, or in its course along a rat run over which the trap had been set. When the trap was sprung, the loop caught the rat against the arched loops. My informant unfortunately could not give me the names of the various parts of the marei trap.

ToysJew's-harp. The primitive pōkăkăkăkă should perhaps have been listed under musical instruments. The Maori pokuru or pakakau. as described by Best4, was a piece of wood, 15 inches long, held between the teeth. The left hand held one end lightly, whilst the right hand tapped out an accompaniment to a song. A shorter, thin piece of page 345resonant wood or tree fern was used in a similar way. Through this foundation the introduced European Jew's harp, or roria, was an important trade article in the early days in New Zealand.

The windmill toy is made in the same way by Maori children out of flax or raupo. Toy canoes were made in a different way to the vaka kopae.

The bull-roarer finds a more substantial form in the Maori purerehua, made of wood and attached by a cord to a handle. Some of these were carved. Best2 remarks that at least in one district it was used to cause rain to fall. The more substantial nature of the Maori bull-roarer drew attention to it, whilst the perishable form of the Aitutaki patangitangi probably led to its being overlooked by writers. This has led to the statement that the bull-roarer is unknown to the Polynesians, with the exception of the Maori branch. The cocoanut leaflet patangitangi has as much right to the generic name of bull-roarer as the more stable wooden purerehua.

Cocoanut shell shoes. Attention has been drawn to the use of the Haliotis shell by Maori children in a similar manner.

Skipping amongst Maori children was known as piu, and was the same as in Aitutaki. Single skipping was not indulged in.

Toboggan. Attention has been drawn to the makeshift toboggan of the leafy head of the Cordyline Australis. The Maori also made toboggans from slabs of wood. They were also called reti, panukunuku, toreherehe, and horua. Best4 mentions that horua is a Polynesian name, being used in Hawaii for a similar object. Horua was not mentioned in Aitutaki.

Jackstones. The Maori game under the name of koruru, kai makamaka, ti kai, and tutukai was usually played wth five pebbles. Best4 quotes John White's description of a game with fifteen pebbles. This would be similar to the Aitutaki game of pere. It was impossible to catch all the fifteen pebbles on the back of the hand. As many as possible were caught, and then the others were picked up singly in the various figures.

Tops. The Maori had stone tops as well as wooden ones. The name potaka is the same. Owing to the longer whip of flax, the Maori used the whip lash to wind round page 346the top in order to spin it. A special cord, as in the Aituatkian method, was only used with humming tops. The Maori wooden humming top with the upper projecting horn for the spinning cord was not made in Aitutaki. A humming top was made by boring a hole in the side of the cocoanut top. The Maori used a small gourd in a similar way, but a stick was pushed through to provide a point to spin on. The other end was left longer, to provide the means of spinning it with a cord. This usage resembles that of the Aitutaki teetotum.

Stilts. The Maori used stilts, which were termed pou turu, pou toti, pou koki, or tokorangi. The form of step, however, was more primitive. It consisted simply of a short straight rod tied at one end at right angles to the handle. A cord was tied to the other end and lashed above to the handle, leaving sufficient space below the diagonal stay for the foot to rest on the step. Thus the support to the step came from above, whereas in the Aitutaki stilt it came from the direct lashing below. It is curious that this form of step should have been used by the Maori, as he used the Aitutakian and Marquesan form of stilt step on his digging implements. There the step was known as a teka, and was often carved. The plain ones are exactly similar to the Aitutaki stilt step, and are fastened on in the same way. The Maori digging implement was named ko. On the other hand, though the Aitutakian used the step with the stilt, he did not do so with his digging implement, or paheru.

String figures. String figures are made by the Maori under the name of whai, which is the equivalent of the Aitutaki word hai. For the infinite variety of Maori figures the reader is referred to the work of Mr. Johannes Andersen.5

Kites, The term manu tukutuku was used by the Maori for kite flying. In ancient times a particular kite was covered with bark cloth and called manu aute, from the name of the material, aute. This could only be made in the restricted area in which the paper mulberry grew. Bark cloth of necessity ceased to be the usual covering for kites. The usual covering was the dry leaves of raupo, or in some cases toetoe. Various forms were used. Best4 mentions that there were two forms of the manu patiki, one of which was diamond-shaped. This corresponds in name and shape to page 347the Aitutaki manu patiki. This shape was also figured by the Rev. Wyatt Gill6 as the taiaro form of Mangaia. In both Aitutaki and New Zealand, songs and incantations were used, and the pastime gave pleasure to adults as well as young people. The Maori on occasion used a particular form of kite for the purposes of divination.

Darts. The teka, under the same name, was a favourite game of skill with the Maori. It figures largely in historical tales of a romantic nature. The Maori dart usually consisted of the straight stem of the common bracken, Pteris. Best4 quotes White as saying that the front end was bound round with a narrow strip of green flax, to form a knob termed poike. The poike corresponds to the Aitutaki kouma. Another of Best's4 authorities states that the dart was about 3 feet long. It thus belonged to the tumutumu type of Aitutaki. The method of holding and casting was the same. The Maori authorities stress the raised mound. In Aitutaki it was an assistance but not a necessity, as a properly cast teka will rise off the flat ground. It is also probable that the Maori ran close up to the mound in order to cast his tumutumu type of dart. The impression left after reading the Maori accounts is that the dart was cast some little distance behind the mound. Dart throwing was early abandoned in New Zealand after the advent of Europeans. Even old Maoris were speaking from hearsay evidence. In Aitutaki the game is still alive, and the casting of the tumutumu type throws an important light on an extinct Maori pastime. The Maori teka and the Aitutaki tumutumu were the same in thickness, length, binding of the front end, and manner of holding. The method of casting therefore must have been the same. Even close to the mound it takes considerable skill to strike the right part of the mound with the dart at the right angle as it leaves the hand. The principle of the tumutumu is that it gets its impetus and right trajectory directly off the ground as it leaves the hand.

The throwing cord of the teka ta manuhiri and the teka kokihi is extremely interesting. This method was used by the Maori in the kotaha throwing whip. With these the dart was stuck in the ground in a slanting position. A short length of cord with a knot on the end was attached to a handle, usually carved. The cord was fixed to the dart in the same manner as in Aitutaki. The page 348dart was jerked out of the ground, and as it went forward the cord automatically released, as shown in the Aitutaki release, Fig. 291. The principle of the teka kokihi and the kotaha is the same, except that in one the dart is lying horizontally on the ground, and in the other it is in a slanting position. In the teka kokihi, Fig. 293, it is obvious that the throwing cord must be wound round the stick so as to keep it over the knot, With the Maori kotaha, the whip handle would have to be held in such a manner that the cord, after passing over the knot, was in the same line as the slanting stick. The Maori kotaha was used in war as well as in ordinary sport.

The throwing disc. There is no remembered Maori game corresponding to the iron-wood disc of Aitutaki. Best,4 however, has drawn attention to the stone discs of unknown use discovered and described by Semadeni.7 Mention is made at the same time of the Hawaiian stone discs, ulu or olohu that are used in the game of maika. The Hawaiian game is played to pass the disc through two sticks close together or for distance. In throwing for distance, the Hawaiian and Aitutakian games are similar. It is not known to the author whether the Hawaiians used a bark strip for throwing with. The average weight of Mr. Semadeni's discs was 41bs. 9oz. The weight of the Aitutaki pua in the Auckland Museum is 1lb. 8½oz. It would seem that the extra weight of the New Zealand stone would preclude the use of the throwing strip. They are too heavy to hold between the thumb and the forefinger. They were probably rested in the palm of the hand and thrown for distance or to pass between two sticks as in the Hawaiian game. In spite of the bias of the discs, it is extremely improbable that their use in any way approached the European game of bowls.

2 Best, Elsdon, 1924, I.

3 Downes, T. W., 1926, I.

4 Best, Elsdon, 1925, I.

5 Andersen, Johannes C, 1920, 1921, and 1924, I.

6 Gill, Rev. Wyatt, 1876, I.

7 Semadeni, C. A., 1912, I.