Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Coming of the Maori

The Old Order Changeth

The Old Order Changeth

Tattooing survived for quite an appreciable time after European contact. A minor change was the use of steel instead of bone in the tattooing combs, some being serrated and others plain like a narrow chisel. The missionaries discouraged the practice with some success but a revival took place in the 1860's when feeling ran high between the two races. The face patterns of this period were somewhat curtailed perhaps through a lack of artists graduated from the old schools. The patterns consisted of the forehead curves (tiwhana), the nose to chin curves (nga kawe or rerepehi), and incomplete nose patterns, the cheek double spirals and accessory motifs being left out After the end of the Maori War, or about 1870, tattooing was discontinued by men.

The women, however, were much more conservative, and successive generations had their chins and lips tattooed with the old patterns. Later artists used a row of needles for the tattooing implement but the patterns were often smudged instead of being clear cut as with the older implements. It was the lack of artists, rather than the lack of desire, which led to the discontinuance of tattooing among women, though education in pakeha ways would have ultimately led to the repudiation of the practice by the younger generations.

A fair number of preserved heads were in the possession of the Maori people at the time of European contact, and attracted by the artistic tattooing designs, curio collectors created a gruesome trade in tattooed heads. The Maori were so desirous of obtaining trade goods that they readily bartered their enemy heads, and the lack of specimens in their possession at a later date raises the suspicion that they either sold those of their relatives as well or buried them to escape temptation. The need for enough native material with which to barter led some chiefs to prepare page 301their slaves for the market and the tattooing was barely healed before their heads were removed for preserving. Thus the chiefly honour the slaves enjoyed was short lived, but they could not have acquired the distinction otherwise. It is said that a few were disloyal enough to escape before the finishing touches could be applied. The products of the trade eventually found their way into museums all over the world. The American Museum of Natural History in New York acquired the large collection of over 20 specimens which had been gathered by Major-General Robley, the author of the standard work on Maori tattooing (61). This collection was once offered for sale to New Zealand, but the price was not acceptable. Perhaps it is better that they did not come home, for some of the specimens with blurred and hastily executed details bear eloquent witness to one of the effects of the white man's encouragement of native art for commercial purposes.

The first ornament to cease to function was probably the whalebone comb for when the men cut off their topknots to become Christians, they lost the support for the combs. It is probable that the plaited circlets worn to support feathers were made as a substitute for the loss of the topknot support. Other ornaments ceased to be worn by the Maori not so much because the owners liked cheap trade jewellery better but because they gave them away as gifts or sold them to traders and collectors. Every distinguished visitor who was welcomed ceremonially on the village maraes unwittingly depleted the stock of family heirlooms, for family prestige had to be maintained at any sacrifice. Nephrite ear ornaments and whale-ivory cloak pins became popular for wearing on the watch chain by Maori and pakeha alike. However, the stock of authentic material could not supply the demand. Curio dealers began to import pseudo tiki from Birmingham, and lapidaries began to produce nephrite ornaments at a more rapid rate with the emery wheel. Maori guides at tourist resorts sold "authentic" family heirlooms at a high-priced "sacrifice" and then collected their commission from the dealers. The Red Cross in Auckland brought joy to the hearts of numbers of convalescent American soldiers during World War II by giving each one a small nephrite tiki as a good luck talisman. As a result a new myth was born, for in the United States the tiki is regarded not as a fructifying symbol for women but as a protective war amulet for men. And so in divers ways the old order changed, giving place to new.