Sunday, April 6, 2008

Govinda - Maori Greenstone Pendants

Maori Greenstone Pendants
The pre-European Māori had no written language so their tribal history and the stories of the gods were kept using many forms of fine arts and crafts. Pendants, jewellery and various tools such as needles, spear tips and fish hooks fashioned through greenstone (jade) carving developed into a fine art form. Great importance was placed on every piece, many of which took years to make using stone tools.

The Maori word for greenstone is Pounamu. The stone is also known as Nephrite (jade) and Bowenite (serpentine) and is semi precious. The New Zealand variety is found only the rugged west coast of the South Island. Colours vary considerably from a light green to almost black.

The greenstone designs, which all have special meanings to the Maori people, range from very detailed Heitiki (human like) carvings to the simple, yet beautiful spirals and fish hooks. The fish hook for example represents strength and determination and brings peace, prosperity and good health. It also provides a safe journey over water.

The greenstone is polished to give a smooth and shiny finish that is beautiful to touch. They are usually around 5cm in length. Some older Heitiki carvings have red wax added around the eyes and others have New Zealand paua shell eyes. This Heitiki design is also used throughout Polynesia wooden sculptures and paintings.

Greenstone carving today is a strong as ever and is taking on many different forms as it fulfil the demands of the jewellery industry.

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