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Friends, guardians, food

The maihi (barge boards) of many pātaka have pakakē - whale-like - patterns. Tooth-like patterns on pātaka probably have their origins in the story of the chief Tinirau and his pet whale Tutunui. Tinirau offers his pet whale for transport to a guest, Kae, who in turn kills and eats the whale. These events illustrate aspects of the complex relationship Māori had with whales - as friends, guardians, and food.

Find out more about Tinirau

At the exhibition

Emphasise to your students that this is a modern interpretation of an ancient story about people and whales. Get the students to watch this audio-visual, explore the immediate area, then discuss the following questions and topics.

Questions for 5 to 10 year olds

  • What happens in the story?

  • Discuss with the students why Tinirau was so upset and how he sought revenge.

  • Find the representation of Tutunui on the Maihi board. What other shapes can you see?

Questions for 10 years old and over

  • How does this audio-visual make you feel? Why?

  • What happens in this story?

  • Discuss how people retain knowledge and how this applies to the Maihi boards on the pataka.

  • Discuss why it is important to retain motifs and knowledge of ancestors.

  • How do people retain knowledge today? How is this different to hundreds of years ago?

Teachers' notes

A pataka is a customary food storage house for Maori. The pataka houses food and treasures and was a great source of pride to the people who used it. The pataka was often intricately carved to represent many different aspects of an iwi's (tribe's) environment and their spirituality.

People retain knowledge from many difference sources. In the past, these sources have included storytelling, dance, carvings, art, and song.

Related classroom activities

The patterns and carvings on many maihi boards of a pātaka have pakakē - whale like patterns. For cultures the arts has deep and intense meaning.

Challenge for the Students

Create a play in a modern interpretation of this story.

Before visiting the exhibition

Investigate other stories from your area and discuss what would be required for a class play.
Identify the logistics for creating a play eg storyboard the scenes, costumes requirements, lighting requirements, choreography, director, scripting, filming.
Divide the students into appropriate groups as to focus on particular aspects of the story.

During the visit to the exhibition

Visit the area involving the story of Tinirau.
Watch the video of Tinirau and make notes on the story
Discuss how you could retell this story in dance, in rap, in a musical, or in a play.
In the appropriate groups:
Make notes on the scene sequence.
Make notes on the script.
Make notes on the costuming, choreography, and possible sets and props for your play.

After the visit to the exhibition

Divide the students into appropriate groups to produce sets, script, costumes.
Work in the groups by brainstorming the story from the beginning to the finish.
Brainstorm the sets, script, costumes and props
Audition actors
Rehearse play with completed sets, script and costumes and lighting.
Perform the play recording it for your future reference.

Other suggested learning experiences

Create an illustrated story board:

  • Create a class artwork around this story by illustrating the sequence of events in the story of Tinirau. The students could watch the video and make notes on what happens in the story. Choose a section and make preliminary sketches. Back in the class the students can work their preliminary sketches up into final artworks. Place these up on the wall in sequence to show the story of Tinirau.

  • Upload video or podcast the play onto the world wide web e.g. YouTube

  • Place the video and or scrip into a time capsule.