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The History of Poi

Momo Bonobo

From the ceremonial dances of the Maori people to the international stages of modern flow arts, poi has spun a fascinating history across the centuries. What’s up with these spinning balls on strings? Let’s dive into the captivating world of poi, one twirl at a time.

Poi finds its roots in the Polynesian culture of the Maori people of New Zealand. Traditionally, poi were made by wrapping dried flax leaves or raupo reeds around a core of moss or fern root to create a ball, which was then attached to a long flax cord. The Maori used poi primarily as a form of exercise to improve flexibility and strength in their hands and arms. It wasn’t all work though—poi was also a part of expressive dances, with the twirling movements adding a hypnotic rhythm to the performances. These dances were often part of social gatherings and important cultural ceremonies, helping to keep the tradition alive across generations.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and poi has made a huge splash in the global flow arts community. It was in the late 1990s and early 2000s that poi started popping up at music festivals and raves around the world. Enthusiasts started getting super creative with their poi, incorporating elements from other flow arts and even introducing LED lights and fire to the mix. Fire poi performances soon became a highlight at many events, captivating audiences with their mesmerizing and daring displays.

Key Points from the History of Poi:

  • Poi originated in the Polynesian culture of the Maori people of New Zealand.
  • Poi started popping up at music festivals and raves around the world in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Fire poi performances soon became a highlight at many events, captivating audiences with their mesmerizing and daring displays.
  • Modern poi artists have an array of poi types to choose from—from the traditional flax and moss, to LED poi, fire poi, and even sock poi for beginners.

Despite all these modern twists, the heart of poi remains the same—a captivating combination of rhythm, movement, and creativity. Whether it’s spun by a Maori performer in a traditional ceremony, or a flow artist on an international stage, the simple beauty and rhythm of poi continues to be a crowd pleaser. If you don’t own a pair of poi yet, check out what we have in stock here!

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