Auckland Museum (Mostly Maori)

Kia ora.  Humor me to continue briefly about Maori influence.  Captain Cook named a bunch of bays (eg, Doubtless Bay, from a ship log entry – “doubtless, a bay”).  Other than that, at least for the North Island, names are mostly Maori.  Impossible, multi-syllable, thousands of very similar names.  Names like Whanganui, Waingaro, Waitangi, Waitiki, Whangarei, Whangamumu, Whatuwhiwhi, Whangaroa.  Those cities being located just in the small arm of the North Island above Auckland – and there are more like that.  And there are lots lots lots more going south – Whakahoro, Whitianga, Waikaremoana …. my brain shuts off.  Oh, and to make it more interesting?  Whangarei is pronounced “Fahn-ga-ray”.  Confusion reigns, and no, it is not just the “W”‘s.  So when reading a guide book and you see a city name, you are guaranteed to have no bloomin’ idea where in the island they’re talking about.  My brain thinks all the cities have the same name.

OK, onward to the Auckland Museum, which, among other things, contains the world’s finest collections of Maori and Pacific art and craft.  The carved wood art is amazing.  Intricate, often full of difficult fenestration, and full of Maori meaning, the art is incredible at any level.  It was applied to buildings, to gateways, to walking sticks, to canoes, to paddles, to boxes, to musical instruments, to bailing buckets for the canoes …. Let me share some examples; I’ll start with a storage shed for food and items of value to the tribe.AustraliaMuseumStorage1  Not too shabby – the sides and back are also carved the same way.  Some details:

Carved panels were used for building decoration indoors and out, and as gateways.  A pretty example below:

Carved Panel

Of course, carved boxes to store valuables (like your favorite feathers):

OK, small things to big things, let me show you a war canoe.  It was built in 1836 from a single log; it is 25 meters long and can hold 100 warriors.  The vertical image is the very tall canoe’s tail.

Some examples of carved ship prows (and a canoe paddle):

Musical instruments were interesting.  There were no stringed instruments prior to European arrival, just drums and wind instruments; examples shown below:

As you might expect, bowls were carved (or shaped, the last one from a single piece of bark):

We’re getting near the end!  Stay with me just a while longer, the best is last.  Let me show you some of their fiber arts, done by the women.  Below is a kiwi feather cloak, each feather woven into the fabric.  A fiber mat and 2 skirts.  And fiber baskets.

OK, for me the most spectacular was the meeting house, shown below:Meeting House

The meeting house is constructed of wood panels and woven fiber mats.  Each panel

typically represents a story from that tribe or sub-tribe, often regarding ancestors.  Support poles are typically images of ancestors.  The meeting house had many functions.  It was a place for the tribe to receive visitors, to do business, to entertain or have parties, or for weddings or funerals.

Truly spectacular, I thought.

Museums are tiring.  The receptionist told us the museum would take us 2-3 hours to see; we spent 5 hours and did not come close to seeing everything (a diverse museum, it had for instance an Edmund Hillary wing with his gear, pictures, and a large mock-up of Everest on which was projected in a time sequence his team’s daily progress up the mountain.   Cool!  And some pretty incredible fossils, like this one. Fossil But enough for now!





Except for this one last item from the museum, a stuffed Kiwi.  Aren’t they cute?  For those of you old enough to remember (are any of you old enough to remember?) Al Capp’s Shmoo, don’t they look like a Shmoo with feathers and beak?   We hope to see one while we’re here, but Shmoo – I mean kiwi – being in the forest and nocturnal, I dunno.Kiwi

3 comments on “Auckland Museum (Mostly Maori)

  1. John Kinnamon says:

    The wood carvings are amazing, but it strikes me that these people had a LOT of time on their hands. Maybe typical for isolated islanders? When you refer to “Maori meaning” in the carvings, do you refer to religious or cultural meaning?

  2. Amazing stuff. And we think we have culture. Nah, we know better.

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