Journal article

Poia atu taku poi: Unearthing the knowledge of the past

Maori people Recreation Culture Pacific people Pacific Area

The word poi refers to a Maori dance or game performed with a ball-like object, to which a cord of varying length is attached. Poi refers to both the ball and the dance, which normally includes hitting and swinging the ball on its string, usually accompanied by music or a chant of some kind. Poia atu taku poi, wania atu taku poi (swing far my poi, skim onward my poi) are the age-old words used figuratively in poi compositions to send the poi on a journey over the land and its people; visiting mountains, rivers, forests, villages, whanau (families), hapu (subtribes), and iwi (tribes). The words demonstrate the importance of the connections a composer of poi compositions has with each of the above entities. Poi is recognised around the world as a performance item unique to Maori. This article questions the uniqueness of poi to the Maori people by showing that the origins of poi can be found in other regions of Polynesia.Specifically, this article will look at the beginnings of poi in Polynesia, tracing its movement from Western to Eastern Polynesia; the same path taken by Maori during their migration to New Zealand. This article will also look at games and dances from islands throughout Polynesia with forms and functions similar to those of poi to demonstrate the evolution of poi towards the forms known and used in contemporary Maori society.

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