There are 17 types of Maori kites. Traditionally made from strong timber framing like manuka wood they were woven with flax and the paper and bark of the mulberry plant until the plant went virtually extinct.
Birdman kites have a powerful symbolism for Maori tribes. One such taonga was gifted to the British Museum in 1886 although like most maori taonga it wasn’t gifted by a Maori but by a white colonialist, which infuriated many people and so it was returned to the Auckland Museum in recent years.
Maori kites are still flown today as part of the Matariki celebrations although the tradition has waned over the past century.
One day cycling through Te Atatu peninsula I came upon a Maori and pakeha kite celebration in the park. Kite-making and kite-flying traditions are well and truly alive in Aotearoa.
As mentioned previously, historically Maori kites were used as a form of communication and divination with the god Tane. They are seen as a connection between the earth and the sky or Rangi and Papa and the connection between the physical world and spiritual world.
As the kite was flown and swooped into the sky karakia or prayers were said to satisfy the gods and bring about a bounty of birds and game for the tribe.