Beautiful but Deadly

Today’s object is a type of stone club called a patu onewa used by New Zealand Māori in hand-to hand combat.

Patu Onewa

Patu Onewa

Inter-tribal warfare was common in New Zealand in the early 19th century, but before Europeans arrived, Maori did not use projectile weapons, such as bows and arrows. Instead, patu were used, with a thrusting motion to attack the enemy’s upper body, or to finish off an enemy with a downward blow to the head.
Patu onewa were usually made from a hard volcanic rock such as basalt, through a painstaking process of hammering, grinding and polishing until they were perfectly finished, resulting in a beautiful but deadly object. You can see here that the club handle has been perforated to accommodate a wrist strap for the warrior.

Our example dates from the 19th century and was donated to the University by the Reverend John Thomson around that time. We have yet to establish why it was brought here, where in New Zealand it was made, and most importantly, who might have owned and used it.
Today’s poem comes from Kiri Piahana-Wong, who is a New Zealander of Māori (Ngāti Ranginui), Chinese and English ancestry. She is a poet, editor and publisher. Her first poetry collection, night swimming (Anahera Press), was published in 2013.

Auē!
So far from home
In this cold land
The rain scours
And the glacial sea
Crushes

But listen
Deeper, deeper
I can hear the tūpuna of this place
Their ancient war cries sweeping the moors

These people they know
Where I have been
They understand me

The blood
The craving
These long years
The heaviness, auē

They understand me
The use I am put to.

Kiri Piahana-Wong
Māori words: auē – cry, a lament tūpuna – ancestors

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One thought on “Beautiful but Deadly

  1. Reblogged this on the StAnza Blog and commented:
    This year at StAnza we collaborated with MUSA (the Museum of the University of St Andrews) on an installation featuring artefacts from Commonwealth countries held by the museum and poems about them commissioned by StAnza specially for the festival. The poems and images of artefacts in ‘A Common Wealth of Artefacts’ were projected in the Byre foyers during the festival and at the same time MUSA posted them on their blog. We are pleased now to be re-posting these articles on the StAnza Blog, and here is the second of them featuring a poem by Kiri Piahana-Wong, who is a New Zealander of Māori (Ngāti Ranginui), Chinese and English ancestry. She is a poet, editor and publisher whose first poetry collection, night swimming (Anahera Press), was published in 2013.

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