Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Coming of the Maori

Children's Games and Pastimes

Children's Games and Pastimes

Skipping (piu) with a rope swung by two persons while one or more skipped was practised but single skipping in which the individual swung the rope was not used. The term piu applies to the swinging of the rope and not to the action of skipping.

Swings (tarere) were usually formed of a suitable single vine hanging down from a tree branch, the ground end being severed. The looped page 246swing with two ropes and a seat was unknown. The moari giant stride was the organized form of swing.

Hoops (pirori, porotiti) were made of a vine (aka) and trundled back and forward between two players or two parties. No sticks were used except in a Tuhoe game recorded by Best (18, p. 92). The game is recorded for adults in which the tattooed skin of an enemy was stretched over a hoop of supplejack and trundled between two jeering groups to satisfy their hate of the deceased.

Tobogganing or sliding down a suitable hillside on some object to prevent skin abrasion was a pastime widely spread throughout Polynesia. The most available form of toboggan was a leaf head of the ti kouka(Cordyline australis) in New Zealand and the ti (Cordyline terminalis) in Polynesia. The Maori sometimes made a special toboggan of a wooden plank with the front end curved upwards and Best (18, p. 83) illustrates a Tuhoe form with the front curve carved. The greatest development of tobogganing occurred in Hawaii where it was a chiefly pastime with special sleds made with two runners and special slides, the furrows of which are still to be seen. The usual Maori term for the sport was retireti and the board was termed papa retireti. Other terms such as panukunuku, toreherehe, and horua were also used. In Hawaii, the term used was holua and hence the Maori term horua probably represents the old Polynesian form.

Stilts (pou toti, pou turu, pou koki, pou tokorangi) consisted of the shaft (pou) with a projecting foot-rest (teka) at varying heights above the lower end. The simplest stilts were made of a straight branch with a cut-off side branch to form the foot-rest. Others were made of a straight shaft to which a short piece was lashed at right angles to form the foot-rest and a cord attached to its outer end was carried obliquely upwards to the shaft about a foot or so above the lashing of the foot-rest to the shaft (Fig. 68a). Stilts were used by children simply to walk about, to run races, or to cross streams. Young men had so-called wrestling matches in which tripping with the stilts was effective. Stilts reached their highest peak in the Marquesas where the foot-rests were carved. It is curious that the Maori carved the foot-rests of their digging implements (ko) and attached them to the shafts in much the same technique as the Marquesans used with their stilts.

Tops (potaka) were used throughout Polynesia and Best's account of Maori tops (18, p. 86) is the best for the Polynesian area. In New Zealand, they were of two kinds, whip tops and humming tops. The woods used in their manufacture were preferably matai and heart of white pine (kahi-katea) but other more common woods were also used. Whip tops were also made of stone and a top in the British Museum was made of pumice.

page 247

Whip tops (potaka ta, kaitaka) resembled English tops in shape but on the whole were less in diameter at the top which was flat (Fig. 67a). Some were ornamented on the flat top with an inlay of paua shells and others were carved. Some were curved in towards the upper rim (Fig. 67b) and a curious form termed potako wherorua or potaka kotorerua was double-ended. One double-ended top with a middle band of scroll carving (Fig. 67c) was figured by Best (18, p. 88a). Whip tops range in height from about 3½ inches to 5 inches or more but very large tops were made by adults for community exercise.

Fig. 67. Tops.a-c, after Best (18, figs. 40, 41b).

Fig. 67. Tops.
a-c, after Best (18, figs. 40, 41b).

The whip (ta, kare) was formed of a lash of strips of flax tied to a handle about 15 inches long. To spin the top, the lash was wound tightly around the upper circumference of the top and the handle pulled away quickly. The unwinding lash caused the top to revolve and to continue spinning as the point touched the ground. Applications of the whip prolonged the spinning. Tops were spun on some cleared space termed a marae potato or along a village street or path. In the Ngati Tama territory in Taranaki, I was shown an overgrown path which ran straight between two old forts and was told that the people of one fort whipped a large top along the pathi to the other fort and then the other people whipped it back to the starting fort. This back and forward pastime continued until the participants grew weary.

Humming tops (potato takiri, p. kukume, p. huhu) were made in one piece with the lower part of the same shape as the whip tops but with an upper shaft rising from the centre of the upper surface. The shaft was for the starting string which was wound tightly around it from top downward to the base. A starting stick (papa takiri) formed of a flat piece of wood, six inches long and half an inch wide, was held against the base of the shaft, the left hand keeping both stick and top in position. The string was pulled with the right hand to set the top spinning with its characteristic sound (wheo). The Ngati Porou used a starting page 248stick with a crook at the end. The requisites of a good humming top were spinning long and loud sound.

The gourd top (potaka hue) was a specialized form of humming top. A medium-sized or small gourd was selected and holes made in the sides to extract the flesh and seeds. A stick was then passed through from the stalk end to the bottom, with enough projecting through at the bottom to form the spinning point and sufficient length above to form a shaft for the spinning cord. When the gourd was spun the holes in the sides produced a louder sound than the orthodox humming tops.