Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

You are here:

Learning experience 4: String games Whai


Whai are games using a length of string tied to form a circle. In myth the origin of whai is accredited to Māui, a demigod and hero of the Māori, 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 all patterns first.

Te reo Māori vocabulary

  • harakeke: New Zealand flax; Phormium tenax
  • mahi whai: string games
  • ngā tauira heketau: Parachute patterns
  • ngā mahi a te rēhia: Games and pastimes
  • ngā taimana e rua: two of diamonds
  • te kapu me te hoeha: cup and saucer
  • whai: string games

Learning experiences

  • Cup and saucer Te kapu me te hoiha (HPE 1, Visual Arts 1)
  • Parachute patterns Ngā heketau te tauira (HPE 1, Visual Arts 1)
  • Two of diamonds Ngā taimana e rua (Visual Arts 1 and 3)
  • Mahi whai relay Tānga mahi whai (HPE 3)