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Object: Taiaha kura (long fighting staff)

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Title Taiaha kura (long fighting staff)
Production Unknown (carver), 1800-1850, New Zealand
Medium summary wood, paua shell, kaka feathers, muka, dog hair
Materials wood, paua shell, feather, flax, dog hair
Classification edged weapons, Taiaha
Technique woodcarving
Dimensions Overall: 1449mm (Length) x 63mm (Width)
Overall: 107mm (Length)
Registration number ME002387

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 taiaha is known as a taiaha kura (red) because of its awe of käkä (native New Zealand parrot) feathers. The awe also consists of kurï (dog) skin tassels and muka (flax fibre) cordage. The taiaha is intricately carved on both sides of the upoko. In a conventional treatment, the arero has double rauponga (spirals) with double haehae (parallel grooves) and päkati (dog tooth pattern) notches. It is an excellent example of a taiaha kura.

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.

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