Toi as a Representation of the Arts of New Zealand
March 3, 2014
The creative arts of New Zealand such as weaving and carving are best depicted through Toi. It is a form of Māori’s celebration of their glorious past that continues to linger and evolve through the presence of modernity.
It can be best represented through raranga, and whakairo.
Raranga is the term that refers to the country’s the art of weaving. When Māori first arrived in Aotearoa, they encountered a climate that was extremely different compared to their homelands in Polynesia. The people were able to adapt very fast with the aid of their existing weaving skills. They were able to produce korowai or cloaks and other practical objects they use in their daily life such as kete or baskets, whāriki or mats. Harekeke remains to be the most widely used weaving material. It is also known as New Zealand flax.
Traditionally speaking, the art of weaving was done by women. The skilled weavers are given a price by their respective tribes. There is a famous Māori saying that goes, ‘Aitia te wahine o te pā harakeke’, in English, it goes ‘Marry the woman who is always at the flax bush, for she is an expert flax worker and an industrious person’.
Traditionally speaking, cloaks were woven by hand between two upright weaving pegs. Feathers and decorative threads are also used in order to enhance the beauty of the cloak. Natural dyes were also used to have a variety when it comes to the colours. Examples of the nature dyes are paru or swamp mud which was used to have a black tone and tanekaha or bark to have brown colour.
Whakairo is the term that refers to the country’s art of carving. Each whakairo or carving tells a unique story. These stories were passed from one generation to another. These stories carry cultural tradition and tribal history.
Traditionally, speaking the art of carving was done by men. The carvings are adornments, weapons, tools, musical instruments, and posts that are used for the buildings within their villages.
The art of carving is a symbol of the country’s prestige. Sample of these carving are ear pendants, breast pendants, carved wombs worn as an accessory in the hair. These accessories were usually made from pounamu or jade or greenstone, whale ivory and whale bone. To further improve the beauty of the accessories, other carvers used other materials such as albatross feathers and sharks teeth. Pounamu from the South Island of the country is best known for its beauty and strength. It is still prevalent even up to these days.
The carvings are so rich and full when it comes to symbolism. The designs differ from one tribe to another. Some of the symbols include the tiki which is a representation of the human figure and the manaia, a representation of a creature that has a bird-like head and serpent-like body, which is considered as a symbol for protection. The natural environment such as pungawerewere or spider webs, unaunahi or fish scales and koru or the unfolding leaves of the fern were used as inspirations for traditional patterns in carving.
Kapa Haka as a Representation of the Culture of New Zealand
February 22, 2014
Kapa haka refers to traditional Māori performing arts. It is one of the best representations of the culture of New Zealand.
Kapa haka is the term for Māori performing arts. The term kappa means to form a line and haka means dance. It presents a performance which is in form of a song, dance and chant and is full of emotions. It is performed by by a number of cultural groups in different places such as school and during special events and festivals.
During a kapa haka performance one gets to have an experience of a range of compositions, from chants and choral singing to graceful action songs and ferocious war dances that best depict things about the culture and the country. Some performances also demonstrate traditional weaponry. It comes in forms of Waiata-ā-ringa, poi, haka and pukana.
Waiata-ā-ringa - In a waiata-ā-ringa or also refers to action songs. The songs contain the lyrics that have meaningful and symbolic hand movements. The performers dance their hands rapidly. The hand movement is called wiri. Wiri symbolises different things on earth such as at gleaming waters, heat waves or even a breeze that makes every tree dance. Waiata-ā-ringa is usually accompanied by a guitar. The sound of the guitar is dependent on the context that the performers depict. It can be be slow, fast, serious, fun and even a manifestation of a person’s flirtatiousness.
Poi – Poi is a sample of a performing dance. The word poi refers to a ball that is attached to a rope or a string. In the said dance each performer swings one or more poi in perfect unison with the others. Such dance showcases the beauty and the gracefulness of the people. The drastic changes in the direction of the poi are accomplished by hitting the ball with the use of a hand or other part of the body, and the sound creates a sound of a percussive rhythm. Poi dancers are usually women. Such dance showcases the beauty and the gracefulness of the women.
Haka – Haka refer to war dances that are characterized by loud chanting, hand movements, foot stamping and thigh slapping. Performers use traditional weapons, such as taiaha (spear-like weapons) and patu (clubs) into their haka.
Pūkana – Pūkana means facial expressions. It plays a vital and significant role in a Māori performance. It gives an emphasis to a song or haka. It also showcases the performer’s fierceness and passion. Both sexes have a different ways of doing the performance. For women, they open their eyes wide and project their tattooed chin. On the other hand, for men, they also open their eyes wide and either stretch their tongue out or bear their teeth. Some of these expressions are found to be intimidating by some audiences. However, they are not a symbol of aggression, but only a demonstration of strong emotions.