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Souvenir Māori-style toothpick

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Creator Unidentified
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number ME17063 TLF resource R4713
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is an image of a small plastic toothpick and holder. Off-white in colour, the top of the toothpick is in the form of a styled carved head. The words 'Air New Zealand' run down one side of the holder (not visible in image). It measures 60 mm x 9 mm x 6 mm.

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 New Zealand as a tourism destination - this item was probably directly manufactured for Air New Zealand and given to passengers with their meals.
  • It indicates that taonga (Māori cultural treasures) were copied and mass produced for the tourism market - in more recent times, a greater awareness of the significance of taonga 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.
  • It is a European interpretation of Māori carving - the human figure is a predominant form in Māori carving, with the head often very detailed, in particular with ta moko (skin marking); such taonga were a vital part of cultural identity.

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