Taonga Puoro

Gourds as instruments


Games, toys and educational tools


The deity of peace and nurturing


The vessels of old


Hine Pū Te Hue, the deity of peace and nurturing, is the daughter of Tāne (god of the forests) and Hine Rauamoa. One of the daughters of Rongo and a member of the Whanau Marama (the children of light). In the great war of the brothers; after the separation of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother), Hine Pū Te Hue took their anger and placed it into a gourd to be in turn replaced by peace. Hence, she is the deity of peace and nurturing.


Tahaa - The Vessels of Old


Tahaa is the most common word used by Maori when referencing a gourd that has been made suitable for storing food or water. The largest gourds or gourds with a nicely curved neck were dried and kept for this purpose. They were highly prized, named and often handed down through generations. Rounder gourds were cut in half to make plates. Smaller gourds were made into scented oil and pigment bottles. The best tahaa woud be re-used again and again to store meats and dried foods ensuring sustenance during the winter months and extra supplies for hakari (feasts) on special occassions.


Taonga Puoro - Gourds as Instruments


Taonga Puoro is the collective name for the family of traditional Maori musical instruments. The oldest musical instrument ever found in Aotearoa New Zealand was a koauau (flute) made from the neck of a gourd. Instruments of all sizes are made from gourds. From long bugle like instruments and flutes through to soft round, nose blown instruments. The gourd family of instruments occupy a very special place in the pantheon of Maori instruments. Their tone being softer than wood and bone when blown. They also make wonderful rattle instruments of varying types making them rhythmically important as well.


Taakaro - Games, Toys and Educational Tools


Taakaro (games) perform a central role in Te Whare a te Rehia (pleasurable pastimes). Gourds are most notably used to make spinning tops in two forms. One is a spinning disc style top made with cut out pieces of gourd. The other is the singing spinning top or Potaka Hue. In the past games using spinning tops could be highly competitive and were sometimes even used to settle disputes. Hue Raraa (rattles) were used to accompany particular dances at times of fun and celebration. Gourds were also used as flotation devices to help young children learn to swim and give novice swimmers confidence in the water, much like inflatable swimming aids today.