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Bird kite
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This is the oldest surviving example of a Maori bird kite. Maori kites were made of a light wooden framework covered with imported cloth. Before cloth was introduced they were covered in barkcloth. Bird kites were generally given a human rather than a bird’s head, on this example made from a contoured mask with shell eyes.

A large, complex and beautiful kite such as this one would have been flown by adults. Children flew simpler, quickly made kites. This kite has a wing span of over two metres and would have been flown by two men, using a very strong three-strand cord. Adults mainly flew kites for entertainment, occasionally holding kite-flying contests, but they also flew them for more serious purposes, such as divination. Omens were read from the way the kite mounted into the sky and from the places over which it hovered.

Bird kite

From the Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand.
Possibly early XIX century AD.
Width 207,5 cm.
Collected by Captain Manning, gift of Mr. Reed.

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