Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Maori: Yesterday and To-day

The Moari

The Moari.

A picturesque sport of the Maori which one would like to see revived now that so much attention is being given to restoring some of the old-time customs and arts of the people is the game of the moari or morere, a kind of maypole and swing combined. This moari was usually a tree which grew in a convenient place over a river-pool or a quiet bay; sometimes on a bank overlooking a slope or a terrace some distance removed from the water. In the page 207 latter case the people on the ropes swung right round to the place from which they started. Usually the ropes were fastened to a kind of revolving cap, so that they would not be twisted. The moari on the waterside gave splendid sport, for all the players at a shout from their leader let go and plunged into the water.

Old Matuha, an Arawa veteran, recited to me a moari-pole pao or chant which he had sung often and often in his far-away youth on Mokoia Island, in Lake Rotorua. There was a very handsome girl there in those days, said Matuha, and her name was Tatai. She was the daughter of the chief Nini, who lived in Pukurahi pa, on the eastern slope of Mokoia. Her father made a moari for her diversion in this way: There was a rewarewa tree growing in a slanting position on a grassy bank at the pa. It was a tall limber tree; it had the elastic quality which made it just the thing for a moari. It was stripped of its branches, and eight flax ropes were fastened to its head, just below a tuft of leaves left on its tip. Each player had a rope and the jolly party swung far out with the impetus given by a short run and leap off the bank; and the maid Tatai flew out the farthest of them all.

“This,” said the whitebeard, “was the pao Tatai chanted, as we stood there each with a rope:

“ ‘E Nini e!
Whakaarahia a Kiri-hauhunga,
Kia rere atu,
Ko ahau ko Tatai,
I te taura whakawaho,
Kai te pehipehi
Nga wharau
I maunawa e-i!
Karawhiua!’ ”

“ ‘O Nini O!
Here stands your swinging-tree,
Made for our merry sport,
Your tree called Frosty-skin.
Here am I, Tatai,
Grasping the outer rope.
See how our happy players
Bend down the lofty tree!
Now off we go,
Whirling round and round our tree.’ ”

At the final word “Karawhiua!” the beauty of the kainga led off, and a charming picture indeed she page 208 must have made, her long black tresses flying behind her, a brief waist-mat her only garment. “Ah,” said eighty-year-old Matuha, “she was a pretty girl, Tatai. There are none like her around us here to-day!”

The Moari. [From a sketch by G. F. Angas.

The Moari.
[From a sketch by G. F. Angas.

A popular Lakeland diversion allied to the sport of the Moari was that known as rerenga-wai, or “flying into the water.” At many Rotorua lakeside villages trees, chiefly pohutukawa, which extended long branches horizontally out over the water, were made use of as diving-boards. A limb of the tree would be stripped of its twigs, the upper side adzed page 209 down and smoothed, and the end of the branch ornamented with carving. One Rotorua rakau-rerenga-wai was that which stood on the banks of the Waiteti stream, overhanging a deep pool. On summer days, when the waters of the streams and lakes glistened so invitingly, the young people of the village gathered by the water-side for the sport of the rerenga-wai. Throwing off their garments, the young men and girls stood out along the elastic tree spring-board, holding each other's hands, and sang in chorus a lively song, then plunged into the water. This is a specimen of the diving songs:

An Arawa Woman, Rotorua. [From a photo. by Allen Hutchinson.

An Arawa Woman, Rotorua.
[From a photo. by Allen Hutchinson.

Te koko e rere atu ra ra,
E rere ra i Puke-whanake,
Ki te kawe-korero
Kia Te Iripapa;
Kaore e hoki-i.
Ka tu au i te rahui whakairoiro
Na Tokoahu.
Kai te ruhi noa,
Kai te ngenge noa,
Ta te raumatihanga.
Po-o-o ki roto wai
Ruhi ai!

See yonder tui-bird that flies
O'er the slopes of the Palm-tree Hill;
'Tis a little messenger
Carrying tales to Iripapa.
It flies away, and won't return.
Here I stand
On Tokoahu's carven tree;
Here I stand
Weary of the summer's heat,
So into the water I'll go!