Learn Poi History - History of Maori POI in New Zealand.

History and Culture - History of Maori POI in New Zealand.

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HOP • Published on 30 Apr, 2013

"POI" is the Maori word for "ball" on a cord

See above an example of short and long Poi used in dance - Maori Kapahaka

The POI was used, many years ago, by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand to increase their flexibility and strength in their hands and arms as well as improving coordination.

Wahine (female) dancers perform the Maori POI, a dance performed with balls attached to flax strings, swung rhythmically. Those pictured to the right are using short POI.

The POI dance was originally used by the Maori women for keeping their hands flexible for weaving and by the men for strength and coordination required during battle. POI are also used as a training aid for other ancient weapons like the Mere or Patu (Short club)

A History of POI in New Zealand- by Daisy Hemana

Tena koe to you,

Maori Raupo POI - New ZealandI am a Maori lady who lives in Wellington NZ. I am of Ngati Whatua descsent (primarily). Although I am in my early 60s this is considered not too old by our standards. However we have passed on our tribal knowledge of poi from our traditional sources based from Auckland and further northland. I was interested to read your history of poi from other tribal sources also.

We have a similar history from our tribe. We pass on through oure korero (or talk) of the poi genealogy as having started with our gods creation, then through the use of flax made bags to carry a moa egg.

We call these bags kii. These carrying bags called kii were later used by our fighting warriors in training. The method was to put a large stone in the kii bag and swing this around to make the arms and wrists supple and strong and to test reactions. The kii bags made of flax had short ropes but when the warriors and boys trained with them they would put on extra lengths of rope.

We have a Maori game which is not much known today which uses just the kii bag so it is like a ball. This ball is called a kii. We use light stuffing inside of it, feathers or wool or clothing even. Long ago the stuffing would have been dog fur or feathers or plant fibres. When the moa birds died out the original kii bags were not needed because no other bird in our country has such a big egg. The kii were just used in our game and in training and the trainer kii became known as kiitoa or today as poitoa.

Later on the poitoa was used in action songs and this has become simply POI. So in order came the flax kii bag which had flax rope attachment for carrying moa eggs and a bit later this rope was removed so that the kii was used like a ball in a game and for trainers some extra long rope would be added and a stone within the bag.

Much later the kiitoa became POI that are seen much today.

I needed to let you know how we view the POI history. AS Maori people We are not the same across the whole country, we have our own unique genealogies in not only our lives but also our implements and poi. Thankyou for this way of letting me tell you.

Arohamai, Daisy Hemana

© 2003, Daisy Hemana , New Zealand

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Last modified on 31 May, 2017


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Comments/replies: 3
Sirric Webb
Member #189285
Reged: Mar 2014
Post21st Mar 2014 9:50 PM 

I like this. i wanted to just say thanks for posting about your individual and cultural opinion and views. this was important to me for the store i am going to open. more a dojo really. i just want people to get to know that world is not as bad as some make it out to be, and Poi is my door to do this.
i am 46 years old and learned the performance art side of Poi this past year. it has in fact changed my life. so world peace and spin like the universe. peace

Sheryl L
Member #199540
Reged: Sep 2014
Post9th Sep 2014 2:32 AM 

I am studying Raranga we are doing History of Taranaki Poi this week, I have found this interesting. Its similar and different to the whakapapa of our Poi. Many Thanks

Derek Ellis
Member #323703
Reged: Sep 2021
Post19th Sep 2021 6:34 AM 

My dad keeps singing a song about a tiny ball what a fascinating thing tiny ball on end of string he heard it from some New Zealand cricketers on tour in England and I think it is related to the dance

Comments/replies: 3


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