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File:Koru Unfurling.JPG
A fern frond unfurling
File:AirNZ Koru.jpg
The koru as used by Air New Zealand

The koru (Māori for "loop"[1]) is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace.[2] It is an integral symbol in Māori art, carving and tattoos. The circular shape of the koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin.[citation needed]


Koru is the integral central motif of symbolic, seemingly-abstract kowhaiwhai designs, traditionally used to decorate Maori wharenui (meeting houses). There are numerous semi-formal designs, representing different features of the natural world.[3]

Koru can also refer to bone carvings. Those generally take the shape of the uncurling fern frond. When bone is worn on the skin, it changes colour as oil is absorbed. Māori took this to symbolise that the spirit of the person was inhabiting the pendant. When someone gives a pendant to someone else, it is the custom that they wear it for a time so that part of their spirit is given as well.

A koru design (based on the ngaru kowhaiwhai pattern) is used in a stylised form as the logo of Air New Zealand and as an iconic symbol of New Zealand flora. Friedensreich Hundertwasser based his koru flag for New Zealand on the symbol, and it also formed the basis for a notable series of artworks by Gordon Walters. The koru swirls are also reminiscent of the Tomoe symbol in Japan.[4] The New Zealand national korfball team is nicknamed The Korus.


  1. John C. Moorfield (2010). "Māori dictionary". Te Aka Māori-English, English-Māori Dictionary and Index. Te Whanake. Retrieved 14 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal (March 4, 2009). "Māori creation traditions". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 14 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Wison, Kemera "Whakairo" Maori Carving - Reading Kowhaiwhai," maori.org.nz. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  4. "Koru Cross".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>