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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 8 (December 1, 1933)

Taranaki's Poi Dancers

Taranaki's Poi Dancers.

The conservative spirit is still strong in Taranaki, particularly among the people who pay reverence to the memory of Te Whiti, the Prophet of Parihaka, and this adherence to the ways of old particularly distinguishes the performance of the poi action-song-and-dance by the women and girls. The delegation of people from Waitara and other parts of Taranaki who came down to Wellington to assist at the opening of a new meeting-hall at Lower Hutt recently—the Atiawa of Wellington, were from Taranaki originally—included a party of expert poi performers, and they gave a series of pois such as nowadays only can be seen and heard among these Te Whiti-ites.

The old prophet of the Mountain delighted in the poi, and he made it a part of his patriotic ritual. It was more than an amusement at Parihaka; it was linked up with religious worship.

The women wear the “raukura” in their hair, the white feathers which are the proud badge of the followers of Te Whiti—who being dead yet speaketh. Their only accompaniment to the poi-ball swinging and tapping is their own chant, which is sometimes an ancient tribal chant, sometimes a karakia or incantation, sometimes a well-remembered speech by Te Whiti done into rhythmic chanting. The raukura party need no ukuleles; and they do not borrow pakeha tunes. Their high, quick chant, the waving snowy plumes in their black hair, the black dabs of paint—the old war-paint of the Maori—on their cheeks, their bare feet, make the Taranaki artists’ poi something quite different from those seen in other native districts.