Friday, September 25, 2009

Knowledge is a wild thing, it must be hunted before being tamed

Right, kids, sit on down while uncle Beard unveils fragments of another culture for you.

The Maori language only has 20 letters and digraphs. Thus, the same word combinations can have different meanings depending on, for example, the lengtening of vowels or emphasis on different syllables. For example, kia ora is both the traditional Maori greeting (sort of like "hello") as well as a more celebratory expression (like "great!" or "awesome!"), as well as other things. Read more here.

The Ta Moko, the Maori facial carvings, have deep significance for the tribes. On female chiefs, forehead carvings mark them as chiefs. Below their nose and on the chin the rivers, mountains and forests of that chief's particular tribe are described, showing the influence of the tribe. Likewise, the carved wooden idols of the different tribes also showcase the source of that tribe's influence, be it a mountain, a hill fortress, a bountiful river or their close connections to the English missionaries of old.

For male chiefs, the Ta Moko is all about ancestry. Their father's ancestry is carved on the right side of the face, and their mother's on the left.

There had never been an appropriate time to tell Donald he was adopted

And the Ta Moko is not really tattoos. Its more like scarification, the skin is carved at the same time as its tattooed. I'm going to try and find replicas of usi, the bone chisels used to carve, for my cousin who's very much interested in the art form of tattooing.

The funniest historical fact I learned at Waitangi was that in 1642 when Abel Tasman, the first Western explorer to find New Zealand, attempted to land he was met by Maori tribes, shaking their hands and weapons, chanting, tongues protruding. Tasman fled, fearing for his life. This was repeated several times as Tasman tried to land. Turns out what he saw was only a Maori greeting, saying "Hello. Welcome. What do you have to trade?". Had Tasman realised this, the Dutch may well have been the first Western nation to lay claim to New Zealand instead of the English.

The haka, the traditional Maori dance, was actually quite different a ways back. One form of haka was mental and physical preparation for battle, a way for the warriors to get ready for combat. It was very much an internal process, though performed in large groups. Many of the physical aspects of the haka that the All Blacks rugby team or Maori perform at cultural events comes from that greeting ritual that scared Tasman off, and the current haka is actually a combination of that greeting and the ancient battle haka.

Now, kids, I'm going to be nice and not give you homework. Off you go, you little rascals.


Steve Eriksson said...

Det är skillnaden mellan Holländare och Britter. Holländarna blev lite rädda och drog. Britterna skulle skita i hur infödingarna betedde sig och slå ihjäl dem alla för att sedan sätta ned Union Jack.

Undrar om man som kvinnlig hövding kan bli avsatt? Hur gör man då med symbolerna i ansiktet?

Sashimi said...

Awesome stuff beard uncle. I envy you!

beardonaut said...

Steve: För att citera herr Izzard, " you have a flag? No flag, no country! That's the rule!"

Kvinnor och män tycks ha behandlats likadant, men jag kan inte svara på om de kunde avsättas. Go google it.

Sashimi: thanks!