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Topic: Samoan Kilikiti (cricket)

With summer comes the sport of kilikiti, a form of cricket, played Samoan style. Kilikiti said to have been introduced to Samoa in the nineteenth century by visiting sailors and missionaries, is a major summer sport for Samoans.

In Samoan kilikiti each team has two wicket keepers, and numbers can range from 10 to 20 players, involving all ages, women and children.

The kilikiti bat called pate, is generally made from wood from the hibiscus or breadfruit tree, and can measure up to 1 metre long. Its triangular sectioned blade adds a weight advantage, and the narrow circular handle lashed with sennit (coconut husk fibre) binding, ensures a tight grip. The rubber ball uniquely made by continuously wrapping the latex fibre is extracted from the pulu vao tree (Castilloa elastica) or panama rubber tree.

Although discouraged by the colonial Germans in the early 1900s because of the week-long traditional games, the British game was encouraged by the New Zealand administraton in the 1920s, and introduced to Samoan schools. Malifa School, the first to organise a kilikiti team in 1921, was followed by Avele College, a boys agricultural boarding school established in 1924, where new students were encouraged to bring along cutlery, clothing and a kilikiti bat.

A number of Samoan kilikiti bats acquired by the Dominion Museum (Te Papa’s predecessor) were collected in the 1930s, the period when New Zealand was officially recognized as a cricket playing country. Considered an ‘exotic’ object by administrators, teachers and visitors to Samoa, kilikiti bats were often presented as gifts to visiting dignitaries or departing government workers in the early twentieth century.

Te Papa has a signed kilikiti bat, given to New Zealander Walter James Crowther who was working in Samoa in 1936, as a farewell gift from the Avele College cricket team of 1935-1936. Crowther had captained the team and 16 names are inscribed on the bat.

During his brief visit to Samoa in 1939, Viscount Galway, Governor General of New Zealand (1935-1941) received a kilikiti bat from the London Missionary Society Leulumoega-Fou Boys High School, now housed in Te Papa’s collection.  

With the growing number of inter-village, inter-church and trans-tasman competitions, kilikiti is on the road to becoming a professional sport. In 2001, the New Zealand Kilikiti Blacks played in the inaugural World Cup Kilikiti tournament held in Auckland. During the summer months in New Zealand, Samoa and abroad, kilikiti is played competitively alongside the entertaining singing and dancing performances.

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