Tapu is a concept referred to throughout Maoridom, and it is no different for Moriori. In fact, some have said that Moriori themselves were a tapu people.
Many of the ‘rules’ around tapu are well known. Others, have taken some time to be understood by our predominantly non-maori society. An example would be where commercial products, particularly foods, have been labelled with iconography of maori dieties or atua. The gods are tapu. To then put imagery of them on items of food is breaking tapu and showing an incredible lack of respect by desecrating that deity.
Likewise, putting your bag, hat or sitting your bum on a table or eating surface is extremely bad behaviour. The practicalities behind it are quite logical. Imagine if someone had hair lice and then plopped their hat down on an eating surface. Those that sat there next or sat next to them would be treated to a free helping of louse with their kai.
Likewise, if they were to place their suitcase on the table. What if that suitcase which just prior had been sitting on the ground had just accidentally (and unknowingly) accumulated some foreign bodies on it such as animal faeces or dirt, mud, etc? That would not go down well with fellow diners.
Aside from the obvious distaste of having someone’s kumu placed on the table where one is about to eat from, there is also a well established historical rationale behind (no pun intended) this. Traditionally, the clothes that Maori wore did not provide much cover for the kumu, so having a bare kumu sit on your eating platform would have been highly offensive and insulting.
So what do you think Tapu means? Take the test below.