(This story is told by Dr. Dan Hikuroa, Senior Lecturer in Maori Studies, University of Auckland, New Zealand.)
post by Perry Hyde
Pounamu is the chiefly stone of Aotearoa. It occurs naturally upon our large southern island, which is so named for it: Te Wai Pounamu, meaning the waters of greenstone.
This name refers to the intimate connection between the numerous rivers of that mountainous land and this precious natural taonga. Before the arrival of steel, pounamu was the hardest material available in this part of the world. Be it adzes for building waka, chisels for intricate whakairo, or weapons for war, the durability of pounamu made it a highly sought-after resource.
For this reason, it was one of the most heavily-traded items in Aotearoa in times gone by, lending its name to our equivalent of the silk road: Te Ara Pounamu – The Path of Greenstone.
Its durability ensures that taonga made from it last for many generations, accruing the mana of those who bear it. Many people bear such taonga today, particularly in the form of pendants. Some of these once belonged to ancestors, and may have centuries of history which speak through them. The stories that accompany these taonga may refer to the meaning of its form, or perhaps recount an experience of an ancestor who bore it long ago.
Storytelling is a universal human tradition that has assisted the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation for millennia.
By experience and observation, we can piece together stories about the way the world is, how it came to be and what our place is in it. Stories pack a practical punch, and are a very important part of our individual, cultural and human identity. The world is the source from which they spring.
In this video (produced by Thanos, Exp 375), Dan Hikuroa retells the story of the taniwha Poutini, and how Pounamu came to be. Listen carefully, and you might notice that this story bears with it some valuable information!
Aotearoa – New Zealand
Pounamu – New Zealand Greenstone/Jade – nephrite
Wai – water
Waka – boat, vessel
Whakairo – wood carving
Ara – Pathway
Mana – prestige, authority
Taonga – treasures, things of value (not limited to tangible objects)