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Souvenir Māori Doll, 1950s-60s

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ME017084 Souvenir Doll


This image shows a souvenir Māori doll from the 1950s or 60s. It was sold as 'Pedigree Kiwiana'. The body and head are of solid green plastic, and the head, arms and legs are movable. The 'baby girl' face is highlighted with painted black eyebrows, eyelashes and eyes, and red lips. The doll has a wig of black hair and wears a small kahu huruhuru (feather cloak), a raffia piupiu (skirt), an underskirt, a decorated bodice and headband, and a small plastic tiki at the neck. The hair and skirt show signs that the doll has been played with. It measures 32.0 cm x 15.5 cm x 7.5 cm.

Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongrarewa

Educational value:

This asset is an example of Kiwiana, an informal term used to describe things that are unique to, or strongly associated with, New Zealand and that help to define a sense of national identity - other examples of Kiwiana are the buzzy bee toy, the black singlet, items made locally from paua shell, kiwifruit and the Edmonds cookbook.

It is an example of the mid-20th-century 'borrowing' of Māori cultural items to promote or depict New Zealand and its people.

It features items of dress traditionally worn by Māori - the kahu huruhuru (feather cloak) embodies the mana (status) of the wearer; the pari (bodice) and tipare (headband) are typically decorated with these colours and patterns; piupiu are usually made from flax.

It presents an unusual feature in that the doll is green, not brown - this may have related to the many greenstone (New Zealand nephrite jade) souvenirs available in New Zealand.

It illustrates that taonga (Māori cultural treasures) were copied and mass produced for the tourism market - the doll is wearing a tiki (stylised human figure), which became a very common tourist souvenir; in more recent times, a greater awareness of the significance of taonga, such as tiki, to Māori cultural identity and initiatives such as toi iho (a registered trademark denoting authenticity and quality) have led to changing patterns of souvenir manufacture.

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