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Taiaha (long fighting staff), 1800-1850, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992. Te Papa

 
  • Explosive relations
  • 'Ship buster'
  • Broken relations
  • Flagging authority
  • Fighting figure
  • Double barrel, dual purpose
  • Mixed victory
  • Guns for decoration
  • Details of war
  • Weaving peace

Fighting figure

Taiaha (fighting staffs) are among the best-known weapons in the customary Māori arsenal. Māori used them in some early conflicts with Europeans but increasingly took up guns.

One end of the taiaha is a carved upoko (head), with a face on each side. The two sets of eyes reflect the alertness of the holder, and the protruding arero (tongue) forms a striking point. The weapon’s other end is the main striking point – a flat, smooth blade.

Taiaha were not only important weapons but also symbols of power and rank. This taiaha, with its fine carving and decoration, would have belonged to a person of great mana (authority and prestige).