Mako (shark tooth ear pendant)


Te Papa

Te Papa

This mako (shark’s tooth ear pendant) has red sealing wax at the base. Worn as an adornment from the ear, mako were a highly valued and cherished items.

The colour kura (red) is traditionally associated with sacredness and value. Many different adornments were stained with the red pigment kōkōwai, mixed with animal fat. However, this pigment is relatively unstable, especially on non-absorbent surfaces. So when Europeans introduced red sealing wax, its natural adhesive properties made it ideal for application to taonga (treasures) such as the mako and in the eyes of hei tiki (pendants in human form).

Fight like a shark'Kaua e mate wheke, me mate ururoa.''Don’t die a feeble death like the octopus, it is better to die like the hammerhead shark.'

As this proverb indicates, Māori associated the shark with ferocity and strength. The unrelenting resistance that a shark would display in fight, as opposed to the limp passive nature of the octopus, was a favoured quality.

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  • Title: Mako (shark tooth ear pendant)
  • Date Created: 1800-1900
  • Location Created: New Zealand
  • Physical Dimensions: w21 x h46 x d17 mm
  • Type: ear ornaments
  • Rights: Gift of Lady Kinsey and Mrs Moore, 1936
  • External Link: Te Papa
  • Medium: Shark tooth with red sealing wax
  • craftsman: Unknown
  • Object classification: ear ornaments
  • Material terms: tooth; sealing wax