Image: Neck ornament, New Zealand/Aotearoa E62725

Neck ornament, New Zealand/Aotearoa E62725

Local name: hei tiki

Provenance: Hastings, Hawke's Bay region, New Zealand, Polynesia, Pacific

This small hand-carved tiki was once the prized possession of Maori chief Tareha Te Moananui, from the Ngati Kahungunu Iwi (tribe). According to Ngai Tahu tradition it is said that the life ethos of the ancestor Waitaiki is immortalized in the stone to remind her descendants of her beauty and strength. This tiki has the inclusion of red wax infill to the eyes, which was a common practice in post-colonial times, as red symbolized childbirth and procreation. The hei tiki is probably the most notable of all Maori heirlooms which some Maori still wear to this day.  It was gifted to the Museum circa 1960.

Description: carved, greenstone (nephrite jade) or pounamu; anthropomorphic figure incised on one side; tilted head with eyes infilled with red sealing wax; circular hole at top of head; both hands on thighs; incision extends from both sides of neck to neighbouring underarm; base rounded; rear surface plain and flat.

Height: 0.5cm; Length: 7cm; Width: 4.5cm

Emma Furno
© Australian Museum

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