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Symbol of growth – Maori Koru

January 21, 2010

It’s raining outside and I’m sitting at the table trying to come up with a story. Just outside in front of my window are plantings of native species – ponga trees and their wide fronds, drooping flax bushes with spears of flower buds; and other species I don’t really know much about but have heard they could possibly be food groups – cabbage trees and a native hop bush.

The plantings of ferns and ponga trees are captivating. Green fronds neatly feathered like an ostrich fan meant for display, sit atop chocolate brown poles straight and narrow. In  the centre of each plant, lies its heart with long stems of tightly wrapped coils swollen from sunlight, ready to unravel one by one, and become whole.

by Cate

by Cate

To English speakers the fern frond has its place in everyday life as nothing more than a plant with a common name. In Maori the frond holds more value and is affectionately known as koru.

I have become accustomed to seeing the koru  in Maori carvings, design and tattoos; and also on the tail of New Zealand’s airline – Air New Zealand.

by Cate

But the truth is, I have never thought of  the koru as anything more than a nice design and piece of  art. Like most people including visitors to New Zealand, understanding the meaning behind the koru was something I never considered until now.

by Cate

And then I found a Maori  proverb which summed it all up:

Ka hinga atu he tete-kura ka hara mai he tete-kura

As one fern frond dies, one is born to take its place

Explanation: The koru is representative of growth, parenthood, genealogy/ancestry the frond or koru symbolises sustainability; passing on of life, stories and resources from one generation to the next.

The koru is also widely used in Maori tattoo – moko — design. To understand the meaning behind the tattoo enables people to understand the ancestry, status, strength and courage behind the tattooed face.

Here is a  video which explains the design of the moko and the significance behind each area of the face being tattooed. It is  worth looking at, and don’t worry, there is no tattooing going on.

It isn’t just Maori that use the koru. In Japan it symbolises peace and one British NGO has taken the Maori name and design as a symbol of sustainable development.

As for me? I will be visiting a jeweller for some creative koru designs on my wedding ring.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. January 21, 2010 3:04 am

    Lovely photo – I love the blurred background. I’ve always been very fond of fern fronds. I didn’t know you were getting married.

  2. jahman permalink
    January 21, 2010 5:38 am

    Awesome to see the 3d video and explination of the koru.

    I recently had a maori tattoo design made for me by Tiki obrien a maori designer and artist of New zealand with an explination of the maori koru on my design.

    He said it is universal and can be seen in the galaxies and stars to the energy currents of what he says is called Mauri (life force)

    I think Maori have a very strong and natural connection to nature just like the movie avatar
    i am surprised to learn the director (cameron) used maori language and certian customs based on the maori people of New Zealand.

    all good


  3. January 21, 2010 10:24 am

    I just watched the video. What a beautiful design! While I wouldn’t want to tattoo my face, I love black tattoos that have a special meaning to them.

  4. January 21, 2010 4:37 pm

    What a lovely reflective post this is. The true essence of multimedia is when print & picture & video all work seamlessly together – nicely done.

    And congratulations!

  5. travelforaircraft permalink
    January 23, 2010 5:53 pm

    I had never realized the Maori tattoos were inspired from the fern frond. The 3D rendering doesn’t look realistic as much as it just looks real to me. But back to the ferns, in the ecology here I am used to seeing them as primary settlers — species that first inhabit a disturbed area such as sinkholes or burned patches of ground. So, I’m careful to look for circular zones of bracken ferns in particular as that often indicates a sinkhole that formed and filled in with soil during time’s passage.

  6. January 24, 2010 4:41 pm

    Caitlin – I’m a big fan of fern frond, just love the way they curl.

    Jahman – I like how you have chosen a spiritual based tattoo, something that has meaning and value. Yes right – Mauri is lifeforce.
    Thanks for your comment.

    Erica – going back in Scandinavian history, I don’t suppose Vikings had any form of tattooing on them?

    Mara – thanks for the warm comment!!!

    Travel for aircraft – I thought it was pretty real looking, this person did a good job and it is a captivating video.Amazing how ferns begin at the beginning, the undergrowth and indicators of other natural structures.

    Thanks everyone for your comments


  7. January 24, 2010 5:00 pm

    I’d never have known that those beautiful curling designs were from fern fronds

  8. January 25, 2010 6:23 pm

    We have a blog about travel, and we would like to invite you to visit us and you can find to translate on the right side of the page.
    Thank you very much, and we hope you enjoy.

    best regards
    Antonio & Ellen

  9. January 25, 2010 7:06 pm

    It’s funny you mentioned the Air New Zealand logo. When I saw the photos in this post that’s exactly what I thought of. Thanks for sharing some of the story behind it.

  10. Erica Johansson permalink
    January 26, 2010 1:47 pm

    Not what I’ve seen or heard of! 🙂

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