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Manu tukutuku - the kite culture of Māori

Images from
manu tukuku weekend



















Kimihia, by Tahua Horomona (Ngati Toa Rangatira/Kai Tahu) and Ngaio Te Ua (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki), 1997.
Collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

In Wings, kites featured prominently as examples of wings that people have made. Kites have been part of Asian and Pacific people’s cultures for thousands of years.

Māori brought their kite culture with them to New Zealand, along with the aute (paper mulberry) plants that provided the wing fabric for kites. Among the kites on display are two rare types of traditional manu tukutuku (Māori kites) and two contemporary kinds, as well as artworks that have kites as their inspiration.

In this section, Awhina Tamarapa, Curator Māori Taonga, looks at the significance of manu tukutuku to Māori.

Spiritual aspects of Māori kites

He taonga tuku iho, ko te manu tukutuku,
kua ngaro atu kë ki ngä hau e whä,
kua whakamïharo ä tätou nei ngäkau
kia puta ake ki te whaiao, ki te ao marama.

(A treasured kite lost to the winds brings much joy when found again.)

All knowledge that has been passed down from the ancestors has a spiritual aspect integral to it. Important values and principles are embodied in all Māori art, customs, language, and protocols. Fundamental to them is the view that all facets of life are related and to be considered as a whole, especially in relation to the welfare and nurture of people.

The mātauranga Māori (knowledge base) related to Māori kites shares these qualities, and kites are therefore recognised as taonga tuku iho (precious gifts handed down) for future generations from the ancestors. On one level, the knowledge and practice of kite-making can be satisfying physically, mentally, and socially. On another, deeper, level, the Māori kite signifies a hidden realm of understanding that is linked to an ancestral world view and philosophy based on whakapapa (cosmological and genealogical connections).

The proverb above illustrates Māori regard for manu tukutuku as a form of knowledge that has the ability to grow, heal, and nurture the living descendants of te ao märama (the world of light). The manu tukutuku is notable not just for its physical properties, but for its spiritual capacity to carry cultural ideals and values into the future.

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