Matau: traditional hooks

The exhibition Matau: Traditional hooks, innovative designs, closes at the end of November. Next Monday, Te Papa’s Chris Paulin, curator for the exhibition, will be giving an illustrated talk on the intriguing story of matau, and how Māori quickly integrated European tools and technologies with the traditional matau form that had served them so well.

Traditional bone hooks were used to catch large quantities of fish. As some of the hooks were more efficient than steel hooks, the designs have recently been adopted by present-day fishers. ME004877. Copyright Te Papa.

Whilst early European explorers considered the traditional matau ‘ill-made’ and ‘of doubtful efficacy’, in fact, the design was sophisticated and highly effective, as modern-day fishers have recently rediscovered.

The exhibition features several exquisite examples of contemporary hei matau made from pounamu, ivory, and wood: sturdy bone hooks big enough to land a shark, and delicate double-barbed rotating hooks made to catch small-mouthed fish. There are trolling lures fashioned from pāua shell, and slender matau toroa – hooks designed especially for catching albatross.

Monday’s talk will describe how, without the technology to extract metal, Māori originally made fish hooks from wood, bone, stone, and shell. European introduction of metals led to the loss of the traditional techniques and  bone and stone matau were initially discarded but soon acquired new significance as highly collectible artefacts and, more recently, as personal adornment and symbols of cultural revival.

Matau: Traditional hooks, innovative designs 
When: Monday 15 October 2012,  10.30am–12noon
Where: Te Papa
Cost: Friends of Te Papa $15, Guest $20 (includes refreshments)

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