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Collectors & Explorers

Dr Werner Kissling

Four pictures of maori string figures, New Zealand


"Mike Te Tawhao playing 'Whai' which is still practised in Tuhoeland as a pastime rather than a game since the element of contest no longer enters into it.


a) Te tutira O Maui - a series which requires two persons for its completion. It is supposed to represent four of the Maui brothers of ancient tradition and it is of special interest. The series does not appear elsewhere in Polynesia and may be considered a genuine Maori pattern. Mika is helped by his children who are eager to watch the changing shapes at intermediate stages of the play. The emerging pattern shows little symmetry.


b) The story of Maui exploits proceeds to the appropriate stage and the series is completed. The four brothers Maui are supposed to appear in the centre.


c) Old Mika is helped to form intricate patterns of the series Te Ara Piki Piki A Tawhaki representing the ascent of Tawhaki, deified man, to the heavens. These are large figures requiring one player at each end and a third to manipulate the central parts.


d) Te Pa Harakeka which means flax cultivation, is the name applied to a short series of permutations, each with its own name. This figure shows striking similarity to the radiating of the flax-fans at the base of the plants. The name of the figure had been forgotten."

Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
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Dumfries & Galloway Council