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Object: Taiaha (long fighting staff)

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Title Taiaha (long fighting staff)
Production Unknown (carver), 1800-1900, Taranaki
Medium summary red wool, wood, awe (dog hair tufts)
Materials wood, dog hair, wool
Classification edged weapons, Taiaha
Technique woodcarving
Dimensions Overall: 1755mm (Length) x 60mm (Width)
Credit line Purchased 1905
Registration number ME001310

A taiaha is a hand weapon usually made from hard wood, or sometimes whale bone, and usually about 1.5 metres long. Taiaha have one end carved in the shape of an upoko (head) with a face on each side. The eyes of the two faces see all around, reflecting the alertness of the taiaha exponent. An arero (tongue) protruding from the upoko forms one end of the weapon. The upoko is adorned with a tauri (collar) of feathers and/or dog hair, the tassels of which form the awe. Below this, the tinana (body) provides the grip. The other end of the taiaha has a flat smooth blade, or rau, usually about five to seven centimetres wide, which is the main striking blade.

This fine taiaha has intricate carving on both sides of the upoko (head). It has double rauponga (spirals) on the tongue with haehae lines (double parallel grooves) and päkati (dog tooth pattern) notches in a conventional treatment of the arero (tongue). It has a tauri of red material and an awe made of dog skin tassels.

Although the provenance of this taiaha is unknown, it is an important example of its type and can provide information for the scientific study of indigenous Mäori weapons.

Mätauranga Mäori (Mäori knowledge)
Mau taiaha (an ancient form of stick fighting) is still taught and practised in New Zealand by both sexes. Some of the teaching philosophies and methods go back hundreds of years, often in unbroken lines of succession. On special occasions, such as large public functions, taiaha exponents still perform the ancient challenge called the wero. The person being challenged must have strong nerves to withstand the fury of a properly executed wero.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.