Collection: Hei Matau

matau (noun) fish hook.

Traditional matau hooks were made in all sizes, and are distinctive but seemingly highly variable in shape. Fishhooks made of greenstone were usually less than 60–70 mm in length, while larger hooks consisted of wooden shanks made from binding saplings to create the required shape, and bone points.

According to metaphorical narrative, Mäui hauled up the North Island of New Zealand, Te Ika-a-Mäui (the Fish of   Mäui), from the depths of the ocean during a fishing expedition with his brothers. Hei matau also denote the importance of fishing to Mäori, and their relationship to Tangaroa, the guardian of the sea and its environ.

Valuable greenstone fishing matau had a dual purpose, being worn for safekeeping as items of personal prestige when  not in use. This secondary purpose eventually gave rise to the development of often highly stylised hei matau in the late twentieth century.

In a Māori worldview, taonga tuku iho carry stories and messages from one generation to the next.