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The Korotangi.

A. correspondent writes to the " Wanganui Chronicle " :—" Sir, —In your Wednesday's supplement I see a mention of the Korotangi, the sacred stone bird said to have been brought by the Maoris from Hawaiki ; and the following particulars respecting it may interest some of your readers. I first heard of the bird in 1852, from the late Rev. Mr Stannard, of Waitotara, who told me that one of the canoes which came from Hawaiki was said to have had a stone figurehead, in the shape of a bird, which w»s still preserved among the East Coast tribes, and was highly venerated. I subsequently heard the same tale from old Maoris, and found that the Rev. R. Taylor had also heard of it. None of my informants had apparently seen the image, and neither of them intimated it's having been lost. On the contrary, they spoke as if its whereabouts was known. I naturally supposed that the figure was a, grotesque thing, such as Maori oarvings generally are ; and thus, when I saw it at Major Wilson's house in February, 1886, I was extremely surprised to find! it one of the most beautiful pieces of sculpture that I had ever beheld. It is carved in hard greenish-black basalt, and represents a pigeon with a duck's bill; If such a bird exists anywhere, it seems to me that that must be the place from which the Maoris came. The bird is represented as j crouching slightly, in the act of springing from its pearch and at the same time just opening its wings to fly. The whole attitude is so perfectly natural that the work would do credit to any European sculptor; and the marking of the plumage is perfectly rendered. The bird certainly was never wrought with stone tools, and: thus it bears jut the old Maori proverb, used to express the unattainable, "that the sharp axe was left on the other side of the water," indicating that they had metal tools in their ancient home. Sir Walter Buller, on one occasion, mentioned an old Maori song, in which the Korotangi was described as havingbroken a wing, and the figure in Major Wilson's possession has a piece chipped off one wing. The stand on which the bird rests is pierced with holes, just in the same way as the bases of ordinary canoe figureheads are, for the purpose of tying them to the bow ;so that the figure was evidently intended for some such use. It seems to me that the figure is of such historical and ethnological interest that it ought to be in the Colonial Museum, and not in private hinds, as I think there can be no doubt of its genuineness, since no one would be likely to carve such an object for mere amusement, even if any one in the colony has the skill.—l am, etc., H. C. Field.

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Bibliographic details

The Korotangi., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2514, 10 September 1890

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The Korotangi. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2514, 10 September 1890