Maori Nephrite Neck Ornament, New Zealand,
together with a Maori Carte de Visite Photograph of a Maori Chief from the 1860's
Pendant: length 2 3/4ins (7cm)
Photograph: 4 x 2 1/2in (10 x 6.5cm)
hei-matau, with a pierced, bi-funnel eye socket and exquisitely carved in the form of a fishhook, but reinterpreted with rounded barbs to function as an ornament; smooth surface overall with occasional natural vein cracks in the stone.
Collected in Rotorua area of North Island in the 1850's and purportedly traded for gold during Victoria Australia gold rush
Bendigo Museum, Victoria Australia
Private Collection, Australia
Private Collection, Maryland
According to Mead (1985:p.227), "...experts in fishing wore such fishhook pendants. This may be, but the symbolic meaning of hei-matau is a reminder of the fishhook of Maui with which he fished up his fish Te Ika a Maui, the North Island of New Zealand. The island is shaped like a ray, with head to the south, tail to the north. Hei-matau were an especial mark of knowledge and the most powerful prayers are the incantations of Maui used by paramount chiefs and priests who would be entitled to wear the hei-matau."
It is curious to note in the photograph that the chief is wearing a Maori flax cloak but holding a Hawaiian kahili.