Inenga. Māori Measurement Using Your Body

Early measurement in Māori culture was based on the human body, especially the fingers and arms. Using these measurements, you could describe the size of a tree, how long was an eel, the width of a waka or the height of a new building. This way of measuring was used in building whare (houses), whakairo (carving), raranga (weaving), and (tattooing).

A person within each Iwi could be used as the ‘standard measure’, this job often fell to an ariki (high ranking chief). There is evidence from East Coast Iwi that the arm-span measurements of particular people were recorded on a rauru (measuring stick or twine) which was used for building whare.

The name of this person would then be recorded in the history of that whare. These rauru were often considered taonga (treasure) and were handed down over multiple generations.

Check out these different measurements and their names

Now give these measurements a try:

  • Look for a tree that is the same circumference as your pae
  • Measure the area of your table using papanui
  • Look for something in your house that is the same size as your kōiti and mati
  • Compare the length of your mārō with your height
  • Measure the length of your bedroom using your whetoko
  • Find the person in your family with the largest ringa
  • Draw round your body with chalk, measure and label the following Māori measurements: awanui, hau, tuke, pakihiwi
  • Create your own inenga pictures for your classroom
  • Measure the distance covered by your kumi and convert this to metres.

Ka pai!