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The Coming of the Maori

Kites, Jumping Jacks, and Stone Discs

Kites, Jumping Jacks, and Stone Discs

Kites were flown in various parts of Polynesia but they were missing in Samoa. In New Zealand, they were enjoyed by young and old as a pastime but priests sometimes used them for divination and interpreted omens from their flight. The general Maori name was manu or manu tukutuku(manu, bird; tukutuku, to pay out the cord). A number of different forms were made: two were named after birds, manu totoriwai (robin) and manu kaka (parrot); small ones for children, manu paitiiti; triangular shaped with a front apical plume, manu taratahi; lozenge-shaped and oval after the flounder, manu patiki; priests' kites for divination, manu wham; and kites made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry, manu aute.

In Polynesia, the kite frames were covered with bark cloth but in New Zealand, though some manu aute were made, the paper mulberry was too restricted in distribution to form a general covering material. The most common substitute was the dry leaves of the raupo which were tied to the framework of light rods. Very large kites were made with a body furnished with a human head, two long wings, and two attenuated legs with four claws as in the specimen in the British Museum (Fig. 68b). One in the Auckland Museum made by the Arawa tribe in the 'sixties is 12 feet across the wings. Though tails of bunches of feathers are stated to have been used with some kites, the large specimens in the British and Auckland Museums are without them. The cords (aho tukutuku) for children's kites were formed of strips of flax tied together but the better kites were provided with long cords of three-ply twisted flax fibre. The cords were attached to the middle of the body framework. Though many references have been made to Maori kites, as quoted by Best (18, p. 67), technical details are lacking or extremely meagre.

Jumping jacks (karetao, karari, toko raurape) were marionettes carved in wood in human form with the legs resting on a base which was narrowed and prolonged downwards to form a hand-grip. They were about 15 inches in total length and made of one piece of wood but with the two arms separate. The arms were perforated at the upper ends and cords page 249passed through and stopped by overhand knots. The cords were then passed through holes in the shoulders of the figure and tied together at the back. Best (18, p. 96a) gives an illustration of four figures, one of which is reproduced in Figure 68c, d. Some of the figures were elaborately carved, the face being embellished with a full tattooing design. The operator held the hand-grip with the left hand and manipulated the strings at the back with the right hand to cause the arms to make various motions on their loose joints. The performance was enhanced by quivering the figure with the left hand and making the various motions keep time with a chant (oriori karetao) as if performing a haka posture dance.

Fig. 68, a, stilts; b, kite; c, d, jumping jack; after Best (18, figs. 28, 38, 49).

Fig. 68, a, stilts; b, kite; c, d, jumping jack; after Best (18, figs. 28, 38, 49).

When not performing, the strings were drawn taut and tied around the waist. A toy form made on the spot was demonstrated to me at Waiomatatini. A narrow piece of board represented the body and two arms were attached to the upper end with knotted cords which were worked from the back. The movements were laughter provoking. I know of no records of similar figures from other parts of Polynesia and it would appear that the karetao was another Maori invention.

Stone discs found only in the Tauranga district seem to have some affinity with the Hawaiian stone discs termed ulu and used in the game of maika. Some in the Auckland Museum as recorded by Best (18, p. 98) have an average diameter of 5¼ inches, average thickness of nearly three inches and average weight of 4 lbs. 9 oz. These are larger and thicker than the Hawaiian discs. However, wooden discs termed pua were thrown for distance in the Cook Islands and discs of slices of breadfruit and sometimes flat coral were used in a similar game in Samoa. The throwing disc game had thus a wide distribution in Polynesia and it is probable that the Tauranga stone discs were early used in a similar game page 250which was dropped for some unknown reason. Thus we do not know the Maori names of the discs or the game, let alone how it was played.