Kites of Aotearoa, New Zealand

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We are a primary school in Hamilton, New Zealand. We have recently been studying the Science of flight, and from that we looked at traditional kites from Aotearoa, New Zealand. We went to a marae (Maori meeting house) and made manu tukutuku (maori kites) with the help of Claire Ashmore from the Te Awamutu museum. We also experienced a powhiri there, which is how visitors get welcomed on to the marae.

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Traditional manu tukutuku are flown at matariki, the maori new year. This is when the seven sisters (pleiades) constellation of stars appears sometime mid-year for a few days. They made kites at this time of year to send messages to the Gods in the sky from earth. Apart from matriki, people flew manu tukutuku over the sea as this was believed to help catch fish and to send messages to chiefs of other tribes in the area. These days kites are often made during the week long celebration of matariki, and they’re still flown in the parks for fun!

We also learnt about what maori kites are made out of and the special way the natural materials are to be picked/cut, which is important to māori culture. The manu tukutuku we made was made out of flax, raupo and toi toi.


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There are seventeen different styles of traditional māori kites. Some examples are:
  • Manu Kākā (brown parrot)
  • Manu kāhu (harrier hawke)
  • Manu totoriwai (robin)
  • Manu pātiki (flounder)
  • Manu aute (basic bird kite)
  • Manu taratahi (basic triangular shape – for children)

The main difference between these is their shape. The word for kite in te rao māori is manu which means both kite and bird. Tukutuku means the winding out of the string that fly’s the kite.


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Here's a link to a video of us making the kites Making manu tukutuku

Curriculum areas: Science, Social Science, Technology, Literacy: procedural writing, reading, oral language, te reo māori