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No. 26 (March 1959)
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PROVERBIAL AND POPULAR SAYINGS OF THE MAORI

NGA WHAKATAUKI ME NGA PEPEHA MAORI

Ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hapai o ki muri.

He whakatauki tenei e mohio whanuitia ana. Ko te “amorangi” he tohu atua. Na, ki te whaka-hokingia mai ki nga tikanga o tenei ra, me ki e penei ana te whakatauki nei: “Ko te Atua ki mua, ko nga kai ki muri.” I te taenga tuatahi mai o te Whakapono ki Aotearoa nei, e mau tika ana tenei whakatauki. Ka mahingia e nga kaumatua e nga kuia hoki a ratou mahi katoa, tae atu ki te tunu kai, i nga ra o te wiki, mutu atu ana i te Hatarei, kia noho tapu ai te Ratapu; kia kore ai he mahi, he aha. No roto i enei ra, kua tahuri nga tikanga katoa; kua waihongia ko nga kai ki mua, ko Te Atua ki muri rawa-

Ko te tui whakapahuhu a Kahukura.

E ai ki nga korero, ko Kahukura te Maori tuatahi i mohio ki te raranga kupenga ika. Tera tetahi ropu turehu, e mahi ana i ta ratou kupenga i te po, i te mea, he po anake hoki nga wa e puta ai nga turehu ki a ratou mahi. Na, ko Kahukura, kahore i tawhiti mai i te ropu nei. Ko ia, kei te whakapapa i te mahi nei. Katahi ka toko ake te whakaaro, pai ke tana whakauru atu ki roto i te ropu turehu nei, kia ata kite ai ia he aha ta ratou mahi. Ko tona taenga atu, kei te huhuti te iwi ra i ta ratou kupenga ki tonu i te ika. Ka khakaaro a Kahukura me tahae e ia te kupenga ra. No ratou ka timata ki te tuitui i nga ika, ka tukuna e Kahukura kia taka atu nga ika ki te moana. Ko tana hiahia kia mau nga turehu nei i te awatea, kia whakarerengia ai e ratou te kupenga. Na wai ra, ka puta mai te ra, me te hohoro hoki o te whakangaro o nga turehu i a ratou, mahue ake te kupenga. Koia nei te putake mai o te whakatauki nei “Ko te tuitui whakapa-huhu a Kahukura, hei whakamaharatanga ki te mahi tinihanga a Kahukura.

Nga uri o Whaitiri, whakapaparoa kai.

E korerotia ana, i nga wa o mua, ki te tae ana tetahi rangatira nui ki tetahi kainga, i te nui o te mana o taua rangatira, korekore ana he kai; ara, ka ngarongaro katoa nga ika, nga manu me era atu. Na ko Whaitiri, me te mea nei, he tohunga nui, i whakahuangia ai hoki tona ingoa ki roto i tenei whakatauki.

 

The emblem of the god in front (first), the food bearers to the rear (last).

This is a well-known Maori proverb, and when given a modern version, it reads: “God first, and food last.” When Christianity was first introduced into this country and until recent times, this proverb as appertaining to God was strictly observed. The elders did all their manual work during the week, on Saturdays the meals for Sundays were cooked in order that Sundays could be kept holy. In recent times, however, the order has been reversed—Food first, and God after—well after!

The disengaged thread of Kahukura.

It is said that Kahukura was the first Maori who knew the art of making fishing nets. He acquired this through bribery. A group of “turehu” (light skinned fairies) were seen making nets during night time for it was only during night time that the turehu attended to their work. Kahukura happened to be near at hand. He decided to join the band and to ascertain what the turehu were doing. On his arrival, he was amazed to find the group hauling a net full of fish. It was then that he decided to plan for the theft of the net. Whilst they all proceeded to tie the fish in bundles, Kahukura purposely caused some of the fish to slip back into the sea. By this means, he delayed the departure of his friends for should daylight arrive they could immediately disappear and the net would be left behind. Eventually, daylight arrived and in their hurry the turehu forgot the net. Hence the origin of this proverb, in memory of the trickery of Kahukura.

The offspring of Whaitiri who caused the scarcity of food.

Whenever a person of importance visited a village, their ‘mana” was said to have a strange effect and banished food supplies. Food products, such as birds, fish, etc. deserted their usual haunts and disappear for quite a time. Waitiri apparently was noted for his “mana” and his descendants acquired this unusual “gift” and wherever they went, food became scarce!

 
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He waka eke noa.

I nga wa e mau tonu ana te mana o te Maori, ko nga taonga katoa, he taonga na te iwi, na te hapu ranei. Kahore he taonga na tetahi ake tangata, otira, e ki penei, he ruarua nei nga taonga e aheingia ana te ki, na tetahi tangata ake. Ko nga whare, no te iwi; ko nga waka, no te iwi, a me etahi atu ahuatanga hoki. Na, ko te nuinga o nga taonga Maori, he tapu. Ko te whakatauki nei, mo tetahi taonga kahore ona tapu. I whaka-ritea ki tetahi waka, hei ekenga mo nga tangata katoa, haunga ia nga rangatira, nga tohunga me nga tangata whai mana. “He waka eke noa”, ara, he taonga ma te katoa.

He kura tangata, e kore e rokohanga, he kura whenua, ka rokohanga.

He kura kainga e hokia; he kura tangata e kore e hokia.

E rua enei whakatauki, he rite tonu, engari ko te whakatakotoranga o nga kupu, he rereke. Ko tetahi ano rerenga o enei whakatauki ko tera e mohio whanuitia ana, ara: “Whatu ngarongaro he tangata, toitu he whenua.” He maha nga whakatauki mo te whenua te take. Ki te kore he whenua o te tangata, kahore a ia e kiia he tangata. he rite tonu te hingahinga a te tangata. I tena ra, i tena ra, ka mate mai he tangata; engari ano te whenua, tu tonu. Na te whenua nga pakanga nunui o te motu nei, he tohe no te iwi Maori kia mau tonu o ratou whenua, ake tonu atu. Kua tuhia nga haka mo nga ture whenua. Kei roto i aua haka e mau ana nga korero teitei mo te kaika o te iwi Maori kia mau pumau o ratou whenua. E ki ana ano hoki tetahi korero, ki te ngaro te whenua, ka ngaro te mana.

He potiki whakarihariha.

Ki te korero a etahi, ko te tamaiti whakamu-tunga a te tangata, te tamaiti, tutu, hianga a, mohio hoki. Mona te korero nei, “he potiki whakarihariha”, a, ko tetahi rerenga ano o te korero nei, “He potiki whatiwhati toki” mona i tutu ka tahuri ki te toki a tona matua, ka tapahi noa, na wai ra, puhuki te toki!

Ehara ta te tangata kai, he kai titongi kaki; e kore e rite ki tana ake, tino kai, tino makona.

Ko te kai na te tangata ake i mahi, makona ana a ia; tera ko te kai i te kai a tetahi atu tangata, timotimo noa te kai, kahore he reka, kahore e makona.

Kai kino ana a Te Arahe.

Ko Te Arahe, he kuia amuamu, na ko nga korero mona, ka kai ana i ana kai, ka riro i a ia nga kai ataahua katoa. Ko nga kai kore take, ka hoatu e ia ma tana tane me a raua tamariki. I etahi wa, ka kainga hunangia e ia ana kai, kei kitea mai a ia e te tangata e kai ana. Ko tenei whakatauki inaianei, mo tetahi tangata amuamu.

 

A canoe for everyday use.

Ancient Maoridom lived a communal life. A house, a canoe and other treasured possessions did not belong to an individual but to a tribe or sub-tribe. There were very few personal possessions. A majority of these possessions, however, were regarded as “tapu”.

This proverb refers to those objects without any “tapu” or real value attached to them. Unlike the prized war canoes and other important types of canoes, this canoe (or object, or any article) is for general purposes only, and one that can be used by all and sundry except those of high standing.

A loved man will be overtaken; a treasured land, never.

A treasured home can be revisited; not so, a loved man.

These two proverbs, although in Maori they are worded differently, are similar in meaning. Another similar proverb is, “Man disappears, but land still stands.” There are several proverbs in connection with the land. A landless person is regarded as an unworthy citizen. In all instances, the meaning of the proverbs is apparent. Man dies; the land lives! Land has caused most of the wars in this country and several hakas have been written which express disgust with any legislation concerning Maori lands which the Maoris themselves are not in agreement. According to another Maori belief, when land disappears, a person's ‘mana’ (prestige) also disappears.

A self-extolling (or ambitious) child (or last born).

Some claim that the youngest child of a family is often the most pert or most capable. This proverb is meant for such a child! A similar saying is: ‘An adze-breaking child”, as denoting a mischievous young brat who gets possession of his father's stone adze and ruins the cutting edge.

Food provided by another merely tickles one's throat; it never equals that gained by one's own exertions, which is the best and most satisfying.

The meaning is obvious and needs no further explanation.

Te Arahe eats greedily.

Te Arahe was a noted selfish old woman. According to stories related about her, she always ate the choicest food and gave to her husband and children whatever remained over from her plate. At times, she even ate in secret, else others would see the quality of her food. This proverb is obviously meant for selfish persons.