British regulars charge the stoutly-defended palisade of my model Māori pa during the early New Zealand Wars. After some trial and tribulation, I have at last finished my experiment in building two sections of palisading for a Māori pa to use with my Empress Miniatures figures.
Māori pa were constructed of rows of strong log palisades. Behind the palisades lay a trench, so that the defending warriors were fully protected as they fired their muskets and shotguns through loopholes formed at ground level by having some shorter palings. You can see such loopholes in the picture above.
The palisading is made from sticks found in the garden. I roughly carved the upper end of each main post into ovoid or rounded knobs, said to represent the head of an enemy as it would appear when stuck on the top of a palisade – an old Māori custom in war. I sharpened the ends of the smaller palings with a pencil-sharpener.
Then I glued the whole lot together with PVA. This was a mistake, as the glue didn’t hold. Next time I’ll use something stronger, like Bostick.
I also gave the appearance of lashings with a thread and needle. These lashings actually worked better than expected, because when my glue unexpectedly gave way, it wasn’t a total disaster as the thread held everything in place so I could make running repairs.
You’ll notice that the posts are varying distances apart, different heights and thicknesses. This irregularity is not carelessness on my part (well, mostly, anyway!), but is actually authentic. Here’s a quote from The Pa Maori by Elsdon Best (1927):
I would here especially warn readers that the most persistent feature in the pa maori was irregularity. In the form, extent and plan of defensive lines, in height of palisades and posts, in the sub-division of the interior and its passages and hut location, the native fort was ever irregular in detail.
Finally, I used some thick insulation foam to construct the base and trench wall. I shaped this with a gentle slope at the front, but a vertical face at the rear to represent the front wall of the trench. I coated the whole base with PVA glue and sand, and then decorated it with static grass on the front, but left the vertical rear face with its sandy finish to indicate the freshly dug trench wall.
My experiment has shown that I can achieve the overall look that I want. This success means that in due course I can now build a bigger portion of a pa. This will have a double line of palisading, instead of the single fence shown here. It will also contain an interior base into which I’ll carve the trench behind the main wall. I can also think about some huts and other items for the interior.