MAORI MATERIAL CULTURE
Clothing and Adornment
In central Polynesia women wore a kilt and men a loin cloth termed maro or mato. These garments were brought to New Zealand by the first waves of settlers who at the outset were faced with the problem of raw material, as the paper mulberry tree was originally absent from this country. Tradition tells us that the paper mulberry tree was introduced by the Tainui canoe. Cook saw a few in the far north and others were recorded on the East Coast. No garments from such trees are known to us today. But the early settlers found an excellent substitute in the indigenous flax (Phormium tenax), and from it they plaited loin cloths as well as kilted garments. Gradually, new types of garments made their appearance. A kilt or rapaki, often thickly woven, was used by both sexes in colder weather. The so-called modern piupiu is a garment derived from this kilt which sometimes had a piupiu fringe. To meet the colder and wetter conditions of New Zealand, a rain cloak, pake, was made from tags of raw flax, partly scraped, and set in close rows attached to the muka or plaited-fibre base. Several types of capes and cloaks were also used, many of the latter enveloping the whole body.
The most common means of personal ornamentation was a red colouring for the body and parts of the face. The red colouring matter was derived from red ochre or kokowai mixed with oil secured from the livers of sharks. Sometimes garments would become saturated with this substance; but it also protected the body from the bites of insects. Hairdressing was important, wives of chiefs undertaking this important task. It was usual for the hair to be drawn up well back from the face to form a topknot (tikitiki) on the crown of the head. In the topknot, feathers of birds such as the huia, the long-tailed cuckoo, the heron, etc., were worn. Ornamental combs of bone or wood were sometimes added.
The storing of feathers led in New Zealand to the construction of special boxes for their reception. Some of these were uncarved, but many were carved in more or less elaborate fashion. Such wooden receptacles shared with the canoe the name of waka, and were termed waka huia. Valuables such as greenstone ornaments and necklaces might also be stored in these waka. It is of interest to note that some of the finest of the carved waka huia come from North Auckland.
Ear ornaments were of a variety of types, the most prized being the elongate greenstone pendants, the straight forms being termed kurukuru and those bent at the end, kapeu. Some other forms were the poria kaka, the ring used on a tame parrot's leg; the matau, a hook form, and the koropepe, an eellike form. Common people contented themselves with the use of birds' wings and bright sea shells or parts thereof.
It is possible that many Maori pendants, in particular the greenstone tiki, were worn in order to obtain some magical benefit. The tiki most prized as a breast ornament is carved in the fashion of a depressed human form, the head being bent to one side; but its characteristics are common to the Maori carvings of last century. The tiki is said to be so named after Tiki, the traditional name of the first man created by Tane. Important tiki might be handed down through many generations.
Muka, the fibre of the flax plant, was dressed by the use of a marine shell, much scraping and scutching ensuing before the fibre was washed and pounded. Stone pounders (patu muka) were used to soften the fibre. Weaving sticks (turuturu) were in pairs. In making large cloaks two pairs were necessary to keep the operative edge at the correct height. The most simple method of garment making was that also adopted in the manufacture of fish traps, namely, single-pair twining. Weaving sticks were stuck in the ground and between them were stretched the weaving elements, vertical and horizontal. A two-pair weft technique was developed in New Zealand and used for all superior garments.
Men's belts were known as tatua and women's as tu. The man's belt was the more ornate, a common form being the tatua pupara in which the plaited fabric was doubled over and the two edges loosely sewn together, a task for the bone needle.