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Object: Decorative Pa Kahawai (trolling lure)

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Title Decorative Pa Kahawai (trolling lure)
Production Unknown (craftsman), New Zealand
Materials pounamu, ivory, paua shell, Kiekie
Classification fishhooks
Technique carving, abrasion, assembling
Dimensions Overall: 153mm (Height) x 53mm (Length) x 17mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1968
Registration number ME011848

Pä kahawai are trolling lures designed to attract and hook large surface-feeding fish, such as kahawai (sea trout: Arripis trutta). Adapted from Polynesian trolling lures, pä kahawai are composite lures typically constructed using a ground and shaped päua (large New Zealand abalone with blue-green inner shell) shell lure set in a wooden shank with a bone barb fixed at the base and bound tightly with muka (flax fibre) cord.

An unusual example
This pä kahawai is unusual because it has been made from the finest materials available. The shank is whale bone, and the päua shell inlay has been carefully selected and fitted to it. The three-point pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) barb is expertly fashioned, and the ends of the hook are tightly bound by three-ply kiekie (climber: Freycinetia baueriana) fibre cord dyed in natural plant extracts.

A ceremonial purpose
The elaborate crafting suggests the lure was designed for a purpose beyond its functional capability. It possibly played a ceremonial role in pre-fishing rituals.

Related information

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