Well, I can cross one entry off my List of Things to do in New Zealand. I was walking by the Octagon, which is Dunedin’s main town square (despite the fact that it is, indeed, octagonal), when I discovered that a local market had set up camp. The artisans were mostly grey-haired and smiling, fiddling with their glasses (for the men) or their knitting (the women) as a contingent of cruise ship passengers prowled the stalls. I sauntered by, planning to just admire the wares. Though the kiwi-emblazoned tea towels and knit pot-holders were adorable, I wasn’t sure I needed to buy any.
Then I saw it. Tucked away in the corner: two men with a collection of carved-bone necklaces.
For the last year or so, I’ve been wearing a necklace that I picked up in Costa Rica. It’s metal, with a stylized fish-hook pendant similar in design to those made by the Māori. I quite like it, but I’d long ago promised myself to get a proper bone hei matau: the Māori fish-hook.
The men and I chatted about the weather, Canada, and the market as I scrutinized the rows of pendants. Finally, after much debate, I settled on one which fit my criteria: decent size, slender enough to look kind of like an actual fish-hook, and incorporating a few specific Māori symbols.
Hei matau: The fish-hook – symbolizes determination, strength, good luck, and safe travel over water (useful for me, eh?).
Koru: Represents an unfolding fern leaf and symbolizes growth, potential, and my favourite: perpetual motion, while always coming back to centre.
Whale Tail: Strength, protection, harmony with the ocean.
Quite a lot for one small carving, and quite a lot that resonates with me.
Kia kaha! (Be strong!)