Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

You are here:

Learning experience 6: Poi activities Ngā mahi poi


Long, long ago before time began there was no light in the world, only darkness all around. This was the time of Io the creator, the guardian of the world.

In the quiet of the dark lay Ranginui, the Sky Father holding the Earth Mother, Papatūānuku tightly in his arms. Crushed between them in the darkness were their children, all longing for light, space and freedom.

One of the children was Tāne Mahuta, the guardian and father of the forests. Tāne was big and strong. At last he could bear to be crowded no longer and Tāne rose up between his parents and used his great strength to separate them. He thrust Ranginui high, high above Papatūānuku – making sky and earth. Light and air filled the great space between them.

Tāne Mahuta became the father of a great family. Two of his children were Harakeke the flax, child of Pakoti and Raupō, the native bulrush, who was the child of Repo the swamp. Together, Harakeke and Raupō created Poi.

And that is, how the first poi was made from the strong leaves of the harakeke flax wrapped tenderly around the soft down of the native bulrush. Today the poi is made of materials of our time, but the story of the poi and its beauty and grace still lives on.

Jump Rope for Heart, section 11–2
[copyright © The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand 1998]


The poi is practiced by both males and females. Poi encourages the wrists to become supple, increases dexterity in both arms and also improves agility. Traditionally, such skills were useful when using all Māori weaponry including the taiaha. The poi was a common pastime and is actively practiced today, especially competitively with kapa haka performances.

Te reo Māori vocabulary

  • rere atu: fly away
  • rere mai: fly to me
  • rere runga: fly above
  • rere raro: fly below
  • poi kia mau: poi get ready
  • poipoitia: poi whirl and slap (as in spin and slap on your hand)
  • poi ki raro: poi stop and by your side
  • poi porotiti: poi spin
  • poi tapatapa: poi slap, slap (as in a rhythm or beat)

Learning experiences

  • Single long poi, He poi roa, tapatahi (HPE 1, Dance 1–4, Music 1–4)
  • Poi choreography He kanikani mā te poi (HPE 4, Dance 34, Music 3–4)