Image Haka and Poi Championships, 1928

TLF ID R6473

This is a black-and-white photograph taken by Leslie Adkin in New Zealand on 21 February 1928. It shows two wood-and- metal shields that were used as trophies in the 1928 Haka and Poi Championships. The shields display six Mäori tiki figures that connect the ribbon-like adornments. The negative of this image measures 5 cm by 7 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This image highlights the importance of kapa haka, a customary Mäori performance art form unique to New Zealand that includes haka (challenge dance), poi (dance accompanied by song and rhythmic movements of the poi), waiata-ä-ringa (action songs) and waiata täwhito (traditional chants) - the significant Mäori leader of the early 20th century, Sir Peter Buck, described haka poi when performed by a well-trained team as the most graceful of all Polynesian dances.
  • Warriors used the poi, a light ball on a string, to improve the dexterity of their wrists as the circular movements involved were central to the use of all weaponry - now, mostly women dance with poi; it is not clear whether men or women used the poi in the 1928 Haka and Poi Championships.
  • Poi can be held in the right hand and twirled and beaten back with the left hand with a variety of movements used over the shoulder, to the sides, the thighs, the knees, and the head in perfect time to the songs sung by the leaders to depict the story of a song - the sound of the poi can also be an integral component in a composition, for example, suggesting the fluttering of a bird's wings.
  • The tiki, as seen on the trophies, has become an iconic New Zealand symbol of both Mäori and Päkehä in New Zealand - in the 1960s and 1970s, green plastic hei tiki were routinely distributed to passengers flying on New Zealand's national airline, and one of the enduring photographic moments recording the Beatles' 1964 visit to New Zealand depicts the 'fab four' wearing giant tiki around their necks.
  • The image is an example of the work of Leslie Adkin (1888-1964), a self-taught scholar and prolific photographer of life in early-20th-century New Zealand, whose works include books and papers on geology and Mäori history - his photographs include many of friends and family in a variety of settings, but it was not until the 1970s that the value of Adkin's photographs of people was recognised.

Other details

  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Address: Wellington New Zealand
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Content provider
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1928
  • Name: Leslie Adkin
  • Remarks: photographer
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 04 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
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  • Image
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements