Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Traditional Adornments - The Heru

When I was at the Ngai Tahu Hui-a-Tau in Puketeraki (Karitane) recently, I was delighted to see so many women wearing the traditional heru, or hair comb. I love them. They're incredibly elegant and they come in just about as many styles and materials as you can imagine.

Combs of various sorts were traditionally worn by Maori men and the most common in the eighteenth century was a small, wooden comb featuring a carved manaia head at the top. Bone combs were usually crafted from a piece of flat whalebone and also featured a small manaia head. These were called heru tuki or heru iwi and were often handed down through families as an item of great value. Wooden combs - either carved from one piece of wood, or several wooden teeth woven together with fine flax string - were called heru mapara. If you click on Heru or Hair Combs in the label line below this post, you'll see other combs I've photographed in a market setting.

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