Maori Art Activities

Written by sylvia branch
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Maori Art Activities
Whales are a common subject in Maori art. (Whale image by Catabu from

The Maori people settled on the New Zealand coastline around A.D. 700. Their culture created a distinctive art form often seen in tattoos and jewellery items. Use their imagery to create bold pieces of art that are symbolic and deeply coloured. Bold tribal patterns, ferns and the animals of their region, such as whales and turtles, are their main images.

Koru Pastels

A koru symbol resembles the shape of a fern plant as it unfurls. The spiral shape holds great significance to the Maori people. It represents continuity, time and space. Draw large spiral shapes with pastels on dark construction paper. Draw with double or triple lines, and colour the spaces with different colours. Use black paint to outline the spirals to make your own Maori koru art.

Rhythm Sticks

Maori warriors used rhythm sticks to help with their spear handling abilities. Create decorative rhythm sticks from wooden dowels and acrylic paint. Look over traditional designs of the Maori like those of Kiwi Art. Paint stripes and swirls around the dowels. Let them dry, and then spray them with clear shellac.

Use the rhythm sticks by playing the song E Papa Waiari while sitting cross legged on the floor. Keep a steady beat with the rhythm sticks by tapping the floor, your legs or a desk.

Soap Carvings

The Maori people of New Zealand are known for their jade carvings. Traditionally, they carved tribal designs, whales and turtles to create jewellery and other ceremonial items. Carve replicas with white or green soap and a butter knife. Start by scratching out the design with a toothpick. Cut away the unwanted sections, and then use the toothpick again to create swirled designs on the shape.

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