Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The model Maori canoes

The Maoris of New Zealand built impressive war canoes (waka) up to about 100 feet long and 10 feet wide. A war canoe is said to have carried a party of over 70 warriors, and sometimes over 100. They featured decorative carving along the sides, a soaring decorative stern piece, and lashed-on gunwale strakes. Occasionally the bow and stern were carved separately and lashed onto the open ends of the main hull, but more often, bow and stern were integral with the hull.

There is an interesting photo-essay by Associate Professor Tony Whincup on the following link
He describes and shows the making of a traditional canoe of Kiribati, using local resources and although the canoe is very much part of the male domain he says the "women play a vital role of making sennit string. After several months of soaking the coconut husk in the lagoon, women tease the fibres from it. Rolling the fine strands on their thighs, skein after skein of string is made. This string is used in every aspect of the canoe's construction. With it the planks of the hull are stitched together, the outrigger is lashed on and all spars are held firmly in place."

Although he is describing a form of outrigger canoe (a completely different thing to the model war canoe I have been looking at) it was fascinating to see how the bindings are made as we have many objects with this style of binding in the museum collection.

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