February 21, 2016

0295, 2318 NEW ZEALAND - Māori people

0295 A Māori man

Posted on 01.08.2012, 21.02.2016
In 1642, at about 350 years after Māori colonized New Zealand coming from the mythical home Hawaiki in their canoes (waka), Abel Tasman arrived with two ships near to the South Island's shore. Couldn't be said that it was love at first sight. Behold a fragment from the Dutch explorer diary: "Upon this the other natives, with short thick clubs which we at first mistook for heavy blunt parangs [large knives], and with their paddles, fell upon the men in the cock-boat and overcame them by main force, in which fray three of our men were killed and a fourth got mortally wounded through the heavy blows. The quartermaster and two sailors swam to our ship, whence we had sent our pinnace to pick them up, which they got into alive. After this outrageous and detestable crime the murderers sent the cock-boat adrift, having taken one of the dead bodies into their prow and thrown another into the sea."

2318 Māori performing Haka at Whakarewarewa, Rotorua

Europeans didn't revisit Nova Zeelandia until 1769, when James Cook mapped almost its entire coastline, anglicised also the name to New Zealand. The route was created, so that the islands have become a stopping and supply point for whaling and trading ships, the sailors developing over time some trade relations with the locals. Besides potato, Māori received diseases unknown for them and muskets, who helped them to be fewer and fewer, the population decreasing to around 40% at the mid of 19th century. Further, Captain William Hobson brought them in 1840 the British sovereignty. Also the Christianity. Although tensions have continued, some Māori have contributed actively to the life of British Empire, even putting his fighting spirit in the crown service in WWI and WWII.

Many are to say about this very special ethnic group (do you remember Queequeg in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville?), but we must confine ourselves to a few accents. Over several centuries in isolation, the Māori developed a unique culture, prominent warrior, with their own language, a rich mythology, distinctive crafts and performing arts.Warfare between tribes was common, generally over land conflicts or to restore mana. Although not practised during times of peace, Māori would sometimes eat their conquered enemies. Traditional Māori beliefs have their origins in Polynesian culture. Concepts such as tapu (sacred), noa (non-sacred), mana (authority/prestige) and wairua (spirit) governed everyday Māori living. Most Māori lived in villages, which were inhabited by several whānau (extended families) who collectively formed a hapū (clan or subtribe).

Tā moko, the permanent body and face marking (distinct from tattoo and tatau), is considered highly sacred, and is performed to celebrate important events throughout a person’s life. Since the Māori consider the head to be the most sacred part of the body, the most popular kind of moko is the facial one. The male facial moko is divided into eight sections of the face, each with a specific meaning: the center of the forehead (Ngakaipikirau) designate the rank; the area around the brows (Ngunga), the position; the area around the eyes and the nose (Uirere), the sub-tribe rank (Hapu); the area around the temples (Uma), the marital status; the area under the nose (Raurau), the signature; the cheek area (Taiohou), the nature of his work; the chin area (Wairua), the mana or the prestige; the jaw area (Taitoto), the birth status. The ancestry is indicated on each side of the face (the left is the father’s side, and the right is the mother’s).

Traditionally, Māori used knives and chisels (uhi) made from shark’s teeth, sharpened albatross bones, or sharp stones, and inks made from natural products (burnt wood for the black pigments, caterpillars infested with fungus or burnt Kauri gum mixed with animal fat for lighter pigments). The process was very painful, and was often accompanied by music to help soothe the pain. After a session were used the leaves of the Karaka tree as balm. The Pākehā practise of collecting and trading Mokomokai (tattooed heads) changed the dynamic of tā moko in the early colonial period. In the late 19th century needles came to replace the uhi. Tā moko on men stopped around the 1860s in line with changing fashion and acceptance by Pākehā. Since 1990 there has been a resurgence in the practice of tā moko, as a sign of cultural identity and a reflection of the general revival of the language and culture.

Maori warriors were experts in the art of ambush and surprise raids, appearing and disappearing swiftly and noiselessly into the thick New Zealand natural rainforest environment. The aim was to kill all members of the enemy war party, so that no survivors would remain with the risk of utu (revenge). By the time the British started to settle New Zealand in large numbers in the early 19th Century several unique Maori weapons had been developed. The man from the postcard 0295 holds in the left hand a wahaika (the mouth of the fish), a short club made of whalebone, used where quick in-fighting action required thrusting jabs. Held by a thong of dog skin through a hole in the handle and around the wrist and thumb. The indent on the right is for catching the opponents weapon. With the right flick and twist of the wrist, the opponent can be disarmed.

The man holds on the right hand a wooden taiaha. This weapon, which is between 1.5 to 1.8m in length, have three parts: the arero (tongue), used for stabbing and parrying, the upoko (head), the base from which the tongue protrudes, and the ate (liver) or tinana (body), the long flat blade which is also used for striking and parrying. The New Zealand Army includes an image of a taiaha in its official badge. The clothes plays also an important role in their cultural identity. Māori wear usually a knee long kilt (piupiu), and a cloak around the shoulders (korowai), decorated with tassels, used to protect not only against nature forces, but as well against human forces. Softened fibres of New Zealand flax (harakeke) are the first choice of material to weave the base called kakahu. Incorporated woven ornaments with coloured fibres found their expression in the name kaitaka. Kahu huruhuru signified the use of feathers, while kurī (Māori dog, now extinct) fur decoration changed its name into kahu kurī.

The Haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. War haka were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition, but haka are also performed for various reasons: for welcoming distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals, and kapa haka performance groups are very common in schools. The New Zealand sports teams' practice of performing a haka before their international matches has made the haka more widely known around the world. This tradition began with the 1888-1889 New Zealand Native football team tour and has been carried on by the New Zealand rugby team since 1905.

About the stamps
On the postcard 0295
The stamp is part of the series Māori Rock Art, issued on June 6, 2012, to celebrate Matariki (the Māori New Year, which begin with the first rising of Pleiades star cluster, in late May or early June). The series, depicting examples of rock art documented in Te Waipounamu (the South Island), was developed by New Zealand Post in collaboration with the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust, and artist Dave Burke:

Pouākai / Pareora - a birdman that has small birds on its outstretched wings (70c)
Tiki / Maerewhenua - a seated tiki figure (70c)
Mōkihi / Opihi - two people on a watercraft made from raupo ($1.40)
Te Puawaitanga / Waitaki - a kiwi chick within an eggshell ($1.90) - It's on the postcard 0295
Tiki / Te Ana a Wai - the people of the time, their ancestors or perhaps the generations to come ($2.40)
Taniwham / Opihi - the interlocking taniwha ($2.90)

The rauru (spiral design) pays respect to Rangi and Papa (the primal sky father in Māori mythology), and the light and knowledge that came about from their separation. The colours used in the rauru reflect the land and environment, and the koru represent growth and life and pay respect to the past, present and future.

Abel Janszoon Tasman's Journal - Project Gutenberg Australia
Māori people - Wikipedia
Māori - Māori Source
Tā moko - Wikipedia
Māori tattoo - Zealand Tattoo
Māori traditional textiles - Wikipedia
Traditional Maori Clothing - New Zealand vacantions in West Auckland

Sender 0295: Aaron Howard (direct swap)
Sent from Timaru (South Island / New Zealand), on 20.07.2012
Photo: John Shaw
Sender 2318: Susan (direct swap)
Sent from Auckland (North Island / New Zealand), on 15.01.2015

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