06 / Fishhook Pendant / Matau

According to Māori legend, the demigod Māui used a woven line and a hook made from the jawbone of an ancestor to fish up the North Island from the sea – as a result, the North Island was known as Te Ika a Māui, the Fish of Māui. Fishing was a vital activity for Māori, and fishhooks (matau) were traditionally carved from whalebone. While primarily utilitarian, more ornamental matau were worn around the neck and became treasured family heirlooms (taonga). Contemporary matau are carved in a variety of materials – cattle bone, whalebone, argillite stone (pakohe) and greenstone (pounamu) – and their distinctive organic forms are worn and revered by both Māori and Pākehā. They are worn with pride by expats abroad, and are always popular souvenirs.


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