Academic journal article New Zealand Physical Educator

Exploring String Games - Whai

Academic journal article New Zealand Physical Educator

Exploring String Games - Whai

Article excerpt

Te Ao Kori


Whai are games using a length of string tied to form a circle. In myth the origin of whai is accredited to Maui, a demigod and hero of the Maori, and so it is sometimes called by his name. When put over the hands, hooked over the thumbs and little fingers and pulled taut but not tight, a rectangular loop is formed that is the basis of the pattern called whai. The formation of various designs provided amusement for young people during winter nights and also developed manual dexterity.


Students work in pairs to support one another in learning each string activity. Encourage students to actively support one another to accomplish each string pattern. Learning can be teacher led and peer-supported or the students can learn from pictures or through experimentation. However, teachers are encouraged to trial

Suggested approach

Use a two-metre length of cord knotted into a single loop. (Some games need shorter cords and some need longer ones.) Harakeke (flax) string is customary, although commercially available cords (nylon, braid, wool) can be used.

Talk with the students about string games and the way that lines can be used to make shapes and forms, and that such lines can look like things the students will know and recognise. Talk about why Maori people made string figures and tell them that in many different cultures throughout the world, people make such figures. Ask them why people make string figures.

Level One Activity: Parachute pattern 1 te heketau te tauira 1

Demonstrate to the students how to make the pattern described below and have them try it:

* Put the string around both hands, hooked over the thumb and the little finger so it forms a rectangular loop. …

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