New Zealand is a small country located between Australia to the north and Antarctica to the south. With a population of approximately 5 million we are well-known on the international sport scene, as well as for our beautiful scenery as shown in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and in the Hobbit. Also known internationally are our indigenous people (Tangata Whenua – People of the Land) the Maori, their culture, and their Maori carvings and Maori jewelry.
As stated, the Maori are famous all over the world for their beautiful carvings which vary from statues to jewelry. Maori jewelry can be carved from many different sources but the most common are jade, bone, wood and shell. When the jewelry item is carved, there is a special meaning behind the shape or design chosen.
Listed below are some of the meanings behind the more commonly used designs :
Koru : This is the symbol of creation based on the unfurling of the fern frond. This symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace. The circular shape of the Koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement, while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin; "Life changes but stays the same"
Single Twist : The path of life (eternity), the joining of two people – even though people move away, their journey of life will have their paths cross again.
Double or Triple Twist : This is probably the most popular design for Maori carved jewelry. While the single twist reiterates to individuals people, the double and triple twists refer more to the joining of peoples or cultures for eternity through highs and lows. They remain bonded by friendship and loyalty for life.
Manaia : "The Guardian" The carrier of superpowers with Maori carvings and jewelry, the manaia depicts the head of a bird, the body of a man and the tail of a fish – the sky, the earth and the sea. The mania guides the spirit when needed.
Circle : The circle of life or the path with no beginning or no end.
Hei Tiki : This item of Maori jewelry is commonly known as a good luck charm passed from generation to generation. It is a talisman of New Zealand and the Maori people. The wearer is assumed to have strength and character.
Hei Matau : The fish-hook – this Maori design symbolises prosperity. The fish were so plentiful to the Maori, that the ownership of a fish-hook mean prosperity.
Today it represents strength, determination and good health. It provides safe journeys over water. This is a popular piece of carved jewelry for those traveling on their overseas journey.
Some other designs of Maori carving and jewelry include:
Drop : Strength, independence, unity and pride (a great comfort carving).
Heart : Indicates love, emotional balance, compassion and generosity.
Dolphin : A symbol of protection. Shows that the wearer has an affinity with the sea.
Whale Tail : Another symbol of protection. Strength but sensitivity with an affinity towards conservation issues.
Turtle : A symbol of sea navigation.
Adze : Strength, determination and focus.