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Maori Post Figure: Poutokomanawa


Maori Post Figure: Poutokomanawa
Maori Post Figure: Poutokomanawa
About 1840
Wood, paua shell
Gift of Curtis Galleries, Inc.

Key Ideas
Discussion Questions

In the beginning there were only Rangini, the Sky Father, and Papatuanaka, the Earth Mother, bound together in a tight embrace.1 Their many children, crushed between them, fought with their parents and with each other, trying to break free. Finally, Tan Mahuta, god of the forests, managed to push his parents apart, and at this moment, the world as the Maori understand it, was created. The freed children of Paptuanuku and Rangini became the inhabitants of the earth, sky and water. The earth was populated by their descendents in the form of humans, who traveled across the ocean to explore the many islands of Polynesia that comprised their known world.

Because all humans are descendents of the original divine pair, the Maori believe that it is important to maintain the spiritual power in themselves, and to remain in contact with the various deities of the forest, the weather, the ocean and agriculture. It is also essential to revere and communicate with one's ancestors, who remain present in the community as spiritual protectors of the living. Knowledge of one's ancestry, or whakapapa, is crucial, because lines of descent determine the Maori social order, as well as the institutions of leadership and aristocracy. A person reinforces his whakapapa by recitations of the layers of descent back to the original voyagers from Eastern Polynesia, and beyond to the gods and godesses themselves.

1 The Maori creation story, as well as a comprehensive survey of Maori culture, is given in Maori Art and Culture, ed. D.C. Starzecka, (Chicago, Illinois: Art Media Resources Ltd., 1991) Return to Text

Key Ideas Story Background Discussion Questions


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