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The Coming of the Maori

Maori Carving

Maori Carving

In New Zealand, a vigorous climate and an inexhaustible supply of suitable timber stimulated a greater development in the woodwork of houses and the Maori builders embarked on a course which was to culminate in the highest peak of wood-carving in Polynesia. The craftsmen met social demands by developing the large meeting houses and economic needs by building the storehouses on piles. Interior and exterior decoration in page 312carving developed apace and in the course of time, different schools of carving arose as evidenced by the carved specimens from various localities preserved in Museums. In all schools, the conventional human figure was the chief motif of most designs and what may have been originally a religious symbol in Polynesia became the common secular motif in Maori art. In the meeting houses, the carved figures on the wall posts, the foot of the ridge posts, and the finial of the gable front represented not gods but non-deified ancestors. In other designs, the human figures were simply carving motifs and if they had any symbolic meaning, the knowledge died with the craftsmen.

In the Arawa district, most of the carving experts came from the Ngati Tarawhai tribe. Of the later exponents of that tribe, an old man named Anaha was regarded as the leader of the craft. He carved a set of panels for the Dominion Museum to illustrate some of the main patterns of his school. Among them is a set of named heads which is reproduced in Figure 91a-d.These show the variation in head shape, the introduction of the split tongue, and the use of the double spiral, parallel ridges, and beaded lines as subsidiary motifs to decorate the main figures. Anaha's example of a manaia figure was somewhat obscured by subsidiary details so Figure 91ewas substituted from Archey (7, Pl 4, No. 3).