Monday, December 28, 2009
A Ngati Whatua Marae
It was pouring with rain the day I arrived in Dargaville in May this year. I was on the road, researching the 6th edition of the international travel guide Frommers New Zealand and always alert to spotting marae as I went. The Far North is well known for its rain and that day I had driven through torrential downpours all the way from Waipoua Forest. When I arrived in Dargaville itself, I hunted out the information centre and they very kindly gave me a list of all marae in the area – 20 of them in total; but all I had time for was this one.
Located just out of town, Te Houhanga Marae looked somewhat forlorn in the murky weather, its carvings covered in lichen, its lawns wet and soggy. The main wharenui (meeting house) is named Rahiri and it was built in 1914, Most of the carvings were completed by members of Ngati Porou on the North Island’s East Coast. There are waka (canoes) above each window – these in recognition of the two original canoes, Mataatua and Matawhaorua – that have a special significance to the local people. There was no chance of me getting inside the wharenui but I have since read that it is the oldest Ngati Whatua carved meeting house in North Auckland and its interior (and the whare kai) features some very good examples of early Maori figurative painting from the time of its construction. www.ngatiwhatua.iwi.nz www.ngatiwhatuaorakei.com