Volume 66 1957 > Volume 66, No. 1 > Marakihau, p 2-4
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Photo—W. R. Geddes
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MARAKIHAU is the name of one kind of taniwha, the awesome monsters of Maori mythology. The carving on the opposite page is the marakihau in the meeting-house called Poho-o-Rawiri (The Breast of David) at Gisborne, and is the work of the late Tama te Kapua Raihi of the Ngati-whakaue subtribe of the Arawa. Its long fish-like tail, human upper limbs and head, and long hollow forked tongue called “ngongo” (here seen sucking in a fish) are typical of these sea denizens who feature in the mythology of coastal Maoris.

Marakihau were believed to harass and prey on shore-living people or sea-travellers. Some were said to be the spirits of departed men, an example being the famed chief Te Tahi, ancestor of the Awa people of Whakatane where a marakihau carving decorates a meeting house.

Surrounding the marakihau are four panels of tukutuku (reed work) patterns. The upper left is called “patikitiki”; the upper right is a “mumu” pattern using “niho taniwha” (V-shaped), “purapura whetu” (-shaped) and “roimata toroa” (-shaped); the lower left is another “mumu” pattern using only “roimata toroa”; the lower right is a “kao kao” pattern borrowed from the woven mat (“takapau”) designs.

The four painted rafter patterns are, at the top from left to right, “kowhaiwhai,” “puhoro,” and “kape rua” and at the lower left is “rautawa.

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