Playing on

Carved male figure


British Museum

British Museum

This male figure is from the base of a poutokomanawa, an internal central post which supports the ridge-pole of a Maori meeting house. It represents an important ancestor of the tribal group which owned that house. The figure has fairly naturalistic features. It is clearly male, and has the typical Maori male hair topknot and a fully tattooed face. The eyes are inlaid with haliotis shell. The collar bone is carved as a raised ridge. The large hands have just three fingers each. This is not unusual, varying numbers of fingers are to be found on Maori carvings, and may be due to regional differences in style, rather than having a symbolic meaning.The style of carving - the solidly proportioned body and large hands - is typical of the prominent Ngati Kahungunu school of carvers from the central Hawkes Bay district, in the mid-nineteenth century. The majority of Maori carving from this period is more stylized than this figure. This naturalistic style may have been intended to emphasize the social or human side of the ancestor represented.The Maori meeting house increased in size and height during the nineteenth century, due partly to European influence. Consequently poutokomanawa figures increased in size until the largest were around two metres high.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Carved male figure
  • Date Created: 1820/1849
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 85.00cm; Width: 26.00cm; Depth: 18.00cm; Width: 96.40cm (crate); Height: 31.00cm (crate); Depth: 38.00cm (crate)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; inlaid
  • Registration number: Oc1892,0409.1
  • Production place: Attributed at Poverty Bay. Attributed at Hawke's Bay
  • Place: Found/Acquired New Zealand
  • Peoples: Made by M_ori
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: wood; haliotis shell
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Engleheart, Clinton
Translate with Google