Story: Māori humor – te whakakata

Māui and Hine-nui-te-pō

Māui and Hine-nui-te-pō

This carving by Tene Waitara, for the meeting house Rauru at Whakarewarewa (opened in 1900) depicts the demigod Māui trying to enter the body of the death goddess Hine-nui-te-pō. According to the legend, a watching fantail (or, in some versions, a moho pererū or banded rail) laughed so loudly that it woke the giant Hine-nui-te-pō, who then crushed and killed Māui between her legs. In Māori mythology, as in other cultures, humour and tragedy are often closely interlinked.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PAColl-6585-10
Photograph by Charles A. Lloyd

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Mark Derby, 'Māori humor – te whakakata - Traditional forms of humour', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 April 2024)

Story by Mark Derby, published 5 Sep 2013