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Maori Wood Carving & Design

The ornament of a savage tribe, being the result of a natural instinct, is necessarily always true to its purpose; whilst in much of the ornament of civilised nations, the first impulse which generated received forms being enfeebled by constant repetition, the ornament is often times misapplied, and instead of first seeking the most convenient form and adding beauty, all beauty is destroyed, because all fitness, by superadding ornament to ill-contrived form. If we would return to a more healthy condition, we must even be as little children or as savages; we must get rid of the acquired and artificial, and return to and develop natural instincts.

Maori Wood Carving
Plate III

The beautiful New Zealand Maori paddle, Nos. 5-8, on Plate III., would rival works of the highest civilisation: there is not a line upon its surface misapplied. The general shape is most elegant, and the decoration everywhere the best adapted to develop the form.

Handle of a Paddle
Handle of a Paddle. - B. M.

A modern manufacturer, with his stripes and plaids, would have continued the bands or rings round the handle across the blade. The New Zealander's instinct taught him better. He desired not only that his paddle should be strong, but should appear so, and his ornament is so disposed as to give an appearance of additional strength to what it would have had if the surface had remained undecorated.

The centre band in the length of the blade is continued round on the other side, binding together the border on the edge, which itself fixes all the other bands. Had these bands run out like the centre one, they would have appeared to slip off. The centre one was the only one that could do so without disturbing the repose.

Club, Eastern Archipelago
Club, Eastern Archipelago.

The swelling form of the handle where additional weight was required is most beautifully contrived, and the springing of the swell is well defined by the bolder pattern of the rings. (Captain Cook and other voyagers repeatedly notice the taste and ingenuity of the islanders of the Pacific and South Seas: instancing especially cloths, painted "in such an endless variety of figures that one might suppose they borrowed their patterns from a mercer's shop in which the most elegant productions of China and Europe are collected, besides some original patterns of their own". The "thousand different patterns" of their basket-work, their mats, and the fancy displayed in their rich carvings and inlaid shell-work, are, likewise, constantly mentioned. See "The Three Voyages of Captain Cook", 2 vols. Lond. 1841-42; Dumont D'Urville's "Voyage au Pole Sud", 8 volumes, Paris, 1841; Ditto, Atlas d'Histoire, fol.; Prichard's "Natural History of Man", Lond. 1855; G. W. EARLE'S "Native Races of Indian Archipelago", Lond. 1852; Kerr's "General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels", London, 1811-17.)

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