I have just finished painting this lovely set of Eureka Miniatures‘ 28mm Māori warriors. They are primarily designed for the inter-tribal conflicts, before Europe started to make an impact with the introduction of the musket that asymmetrically changed the face of traditional tribal warfare.
However, these figures should also be able to be used for the earlier parts of the colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1840s, so they’ll bulk up my existing war-parties of figures by Empress Miniatures.
Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from East Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages between roughly 1320 and 1350AD.
Conflict between tribes was common, fought with the traditional weapons as depicted on these figures. If you want to know more about the Māori methods of warfare in pre-European days, you could check out an article I wrote in January 2022 for issue Wi409 of Wargames Illustrated.
The Eureka figures are beautifully sculpted. It is evident that they have paid great attention to the way Māori toa (warriors) move, as the posing includes some distinctive stances that are quite unlike those of other warriors around the world.
For example, fifth from left in the above picture (also visible in the picture at the end of this posting) you can see a warrior brandishing his patu (adze), his feet splayed in what appear to be odd directions, replicating the sort of dancing trot with quick restricted strides that Māori warriors used – and still use today in traditional ceremonies.
Note also that some of these figures are poking their tongues out. The gesture of a warrior flicking his tongue in and out like a lizard is a traditional challenge.
One of the warriors is a musician blowing a pūtātara, a type of trumpet with a carved wooden mouthpiece and a bell made from New Zealand’s small native conch shells or triton shells. We used to have a pūtātara at my work, and boy it was hard to get a sound out of it!
The set includes an ariki (chieftain), shown on the right in the above picture. He is wearing an elaborate cloak denoting his rank.
The other warriors are dressed in pirāpaki or pākē kūrure, which were garments of strands made from the leaves of harakeke (flax) with the fibre exposed in some sections to create lines or geometric patterns.
The right rear figure is the other musician included in the set. He is whirling a purerehua (bull-roarer) above his head, which produces a mournful moaning sound.
You can also see how I have based my figures individually, but can put them into sabots to group them. The ferns, by the way, are model railway scenery produced by Noch. They come in a garish green plastic colour, but a coat of paint soon fixed that!
Some of the figures are wearing a rain cloak called a pākē or hieke, essential for the often cold and wet conditions of the New Zealand winter. It was made from raw flax partly scraped and set in close rows on a plaited fibre base.
Another nice thing about the Eureka figures is that they have a range of body types. So you get everyone from tall and muscular to shorter and thicker-set.
The faces, too, are wonderful. When painting these figures, I could almost recognise some of my Māori friends. I am sure I have worked with that bearded fellow on the right!
I didn’t attempt to paint detailed facial moko (tattoos), but merely hinted at them with a green wash on some faces.
These two warriors kneeling in front of a meeting house (a 3D-print from Printable Scenery) are armed with the taiaha, a close-quarters staff weapon used for short, sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts with efficient footwork on the part of the wielder.
The taiaha consists of the rau (striking blade), which is a shaft of oval cross-section; and the upoko (head) with a large arero (tongue) extending out from the mouth in the Māori gesture of defiance, which could also be used to jab the opponent. These taiaha have a tauri (collar) of red feathers.
The taiaha requires skill, speed, and agility, which is why it was only wielded by high-ranking warriors. The specialty of the taiaha was defence. A master wielder could last an entire battle untouched, at the same time killing or disabling many of his attackers.
One of the figures is a little larger than the others, and along with his taiaha he is also carrying a fishing net. I have depicted him as Māui, a demi-god and a trickster in Māori mythology, famous for his exploits, cleverness, superhuman strength and shapeshifting ability.
One story about Māui describes how the sun used to move across the sky far faster than it does today, zipping back and forth so quickly that the day had barely begun before it was over. Māui would watch his family at work and, no matter how hard they tried, it was impossible for them to finish their chores before the sun was gone.
Māui decided he needed to slow down the sun. So he persuaded his brothers to come with him and gather great mountains of flax, weaving it together into long ropes. They then tied these into a great net – big enough to catch the sun.
With the help of his brothers, Māui caught the sun in the net and beat it with his grandmother’s magic jawbone. The sun was so bruised and bloodied by this battering that from that time on it could only limp slowly across the sky, slowing its passage and ensuring each day is now long enough.
I’m sure a net strong enough to catch the sun would be a powerful weapon in a wargame!
I used GW Contrast paints for all of these figures. As I get older, I find I am getting lazier and sloppier in my painting. Certainly these figures don’t bear the close-up inspection that some of my earlier work could happily withstand. But from any distance they still suffice as ‘wargames standard’.