Poi is a Māori word meaning ball on a string. Traditionally the poi was very heavy and hurt when it hit your hand. The poi was once a rock tied on a flax string that was used by warriors to strengthen their wrists… then after some time they were made out of raupō (bull rush) and harakeke (New Zealand flax). The continuous twirling of the poi in a figure eight formation would help with wrist dexterity and flexibility. This training was in preparation for hand-to-hand battle.
Fortunately, for us the poi has evolved into a soft ball and plaited taura (cord) that is comfortable to hold and doesn’t weigh a ton.
The main purpose for poi nowadays is to convey grace and skill as they spin and twirl in a fluent flowing motion.
They can also be used to make sounds that emulate thunder or rain by doing beats with short poi.
Poi is not always an easy skill to acquire but with practice and patience, it can be accomplished.
Check out this video:
It shows some basic single short poi base actions to get you started. You can also learn a new waiata poi (poi song).
Hei mahi - things to do
- Make your own poi
- Make a poi for someone else.
- Perform the new poi you have just learnt in the video to your family
Some other interesting links
Explore this link about Poi piu. This is another type of poi that was used for keeping rhythm during karakia and are used as normal poi.
Mōtai Tangata Rau used poi piu in their competition performance at the National Kapa Haka competition - Te Matatini ki te Ao 2019. The name of the waiata/song is “Kahe te Rauoterangi”. This waiata is about a famed Ngāti Toa chieftainess who swam from Kapiti (Island) to Waikanae with a baby on her back.
Find resources about poi in the library collection.