A lot of people have told me that poi originated in New Zealand, but I think…

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Mïark -

A lot of people have told me that poi originated in New Zealand, but I think this video from 1977 authoritatively proves that it did in fact come from Oklahoma, Hawaii.

Perhaps this is the performance that sparked off the current trend in poi swinging by people from the mainland.

Video is best watched with the sound turned down (if not off), to save you having to watch it all; the poi swinging starts at 1:50 (and the fire spinning at 1:40).


With thanks to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Orinoco - - Parent

Damn you Mïark. I just watched that.

Kelhoon - - Parent

Poi was in New Zealand well before 1977 and well before video ... or tv or movies ... and before Europeans even found New Zealand.

There are 2 forms, short poi and long poi, the form you are used to seeing is long poi.

I'm not in to poi, but being a Kiwi, you can't help but learn a little about it.  Also stick games.  I remember making short poi with bread bags, rolled up paper and twine in the early/mid 70s in primary school (grade school in American).

There are however many similarities between native Hawaiians and Maori, Hawaiians may have had poi before being "discovered" too.  Maori may well have brought it with them from wherever they came from hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

david - - Parent

Bette Midler grew up in Hawaii. She's a super comedian and shows reasonable poi skills.Perhaps this did inspire young NBC viewers to take it up.

It's Him - - Parent

My understanding is that poi whilst commonly assumed to be Maori in origin could well be from the Polynesian predecessors of these people. The concept of swinging weighted objects around is of course universal and there is no way of knowing when the first pair of swung weighted objects first appeared.

EricS - - Parent

The Divine Miss M is "Auntie Bette" to many in Hawaii. She went to School with my aunts, actually. She does know hula and while the shot in the video went out wide, I wouldn't doubt that she could and did that butterfly move herself.

Native Hawaiians trace their travels/geneaology back to the South Pacific--Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Samoa, and Aotearoa (New Zealand). The myths of the trickster Maui are the same in NZ and Hawaii (Maui raises up the islands of both with a magic fish hook). Maori, Samoan and Hawaiian are all related language from the same root (Maori, I think, is actually the root).

Growing up in Hawaii and studying in Australia and New Zealand actually gave me some reluctance to pick up poi. Poi spinning is done only by women now (though it was likely done by men as weapons training way back) and has cultural overtones. I no longer live in the islands, and many folks play with poi out here and so I picked up a little. Much of the contact poi moves have much less to do with "traditional poi" and more with juggling.

I've traveled a fair amount through Oceania, but never made it to Tonga. I know only women juggle (shower pattern) there and I've wondered if I grew up in Tonga, would I have learned to juggle? Likely not unless I left the islands.


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