Waka, 19th century
Attribution unknown
Wood, feathers and abalone shell
© Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Yellow Room 

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Waka, 19th century

New Zealand’s abundance of wide-girthed trees such as tōtara meant that Māori could build much more diverse waka (canoes) than in their Polynesian homeland. They developed a variety of vessels for coastal and inland waterways. Each waka had its special function, from the grand carved waka taua, which were up to 30 metres long and could hold up to 100 people for war parties; to handy rafts for fishing. Waka were usually moved with wooden paddles or poles. Some had sails made of raupō (a reed) or flax. The anchors were stones tied with rope.

Bequeathed to the museum, this waka is decorated with chicken feathers and a carved dog tooth decoration with paua (abalone shell) inserts.



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