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Photography

Dr Werner Kissling: A Retrospective

People playing whai, Aotearoa New Zealand

Description:

 

'POL NZ . North Island, Bay of Plenty. Maori String Figures, 1939.

 

Mika 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.

 

Left to right: 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 be of special interest. The series does not appear elsewhere in Polynesia and may be considered a genuine Maori tradition.

 

Mika is helped by his children who are eager to watch the changing shapes at intermediate stages of the play of one of their favourites. The emerging pattern shows little symmetry.

 

The story of Maui exploits having proceeded to the appropriate stage, the series is completed. The four brothers Maui are supposed to appear at the centre.

 

Old Mika is helped to form intricate pattern of a 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 changing shapes at different stages of progress.

 

Te Pa-Harakeke which mean flax cultivation, is the name applied to a short series of permutations, each with its own name. This figure shows striking similarity to radiating of the flax-fans at the butts of the plants that are being cultivated.

 

The name of the figure had been forgotten.'

 

Dr Kissling's note, 1978

 

These photographs show Mika Te Tawhao, his wife Te Rori, and their family playing whai. The family are from the Ngāi Tūhoe iwi. Te Tawhao is weaking a kahu kiwi (kiwi feather cloak).

 

Research note, 2019

Source:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
PP/KISSLING COLLECTION, Retrospective 1978/29-32
Digital Number:
DMPG293n
Creation Date:
1939
Copyright:
Dumfries & Galloway Council