Makirikiri Marae, near Dannevirke in the lower North Island is home to three hapu of the Rangitane iwi – Ngati Mututahi, Ngati Hamua and Ngati Te Rangiwhakaewa. When I called in to see the marae it was mid-morning in May and my time was short. I stood awhile and admired the exterior carvings of the wharenui, Aotea, thinking how different they seemed to many I had seen on my North Island travels, yet not quite able to describe how exactly – darker I think, more heavily painted perhaps… if that doesn’t seem too superficial an observation.
It wasn’t until I got home many weeks later that I discovered the marae has a long and intriguing history. For a start, the first wharenui called Aotea was built by Ngati Te Rangiwhakaewa at Tawakeroa, near Tahoraiti, some miles from Makirikiri, about fourteen generations ago. Much later, Ngati Mutuahi started building a carved house at Tahoraiti in 1880, working with carvers from the Te Arawa iwi and craftsmen from the Ngati Tu hapu of Whanganui to complete the tukutuku panels and the embellishment of rafters. That house, named Aotea Tua-Toru, was completed in 1883.