Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maori Place Names - 33

Hokianga Hills, Hokianga
Northland, North Island.
May 2009. Ajr

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pounamu: An Enduring Legacy

I wrote about the terrific new exhibition, Kura Pounamu: Treasured Stone of New Zealand at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa here last week (click on link below), but I thought I’d just add a word or three and bring you two more beautiful pieces from the display. At the risk of repeating myself – because I have written about pounamu several times before – I just wanted to add a note about the stone itself – rather than the 200-plus pounamu taonga (greenstone treasures) that make up Kura Pounamu. Greenstone occurs naturally only in the South Island of New Zealand, where it is found in seven main areas: Nelson, Westland, South Westland, Makarora (Wanaka district), Wakatipu, Milford Sound and the Livingstone Mountains. The two main types of pounamu are nephrite and bowenite – bowenite being the softer of the two and with a different mineral formation. It is also rarer than nephrite. The image above is a ‘Tuhiwai’ mere pounamu (nephrite weapon), Ngati Toa and Ngai Tahu iwi (tribes), Otago. Kahurangi variety,Westland. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Maori classify pounamu according to its colours, markings and translucency and there are many local names for different pounamu. The four main varieties recognised by most iwi (tribes) are inanga, kahurangi, kawakawa and tangiwai. The range of appearance within each of these varieties is enormous and more than one variety can exist within one stone. Inanga – especially prized by Southern Maori - is a pearly-white or grey-green colour and varies from translucent to opaque. Kahurangi is the rarest variety of pounamu, is highly translucent and often comes in vivid shades of green. In the old days it was the preferred stone for the blades of toki poutangata (ceremonial adzes) owned by rangitira (chiefs). Kawakawa is the most common variety and it comes in many shades, often with small dark flecks. Tangiwai is clear, like glass, and ranges from olive green to bluish-green in colour. It is a bowenite rock and the most ancient form of pounamu found chiefly in two isolated areas at Piopiotahi (Milford Sound). (This, it should be noted is a brief summary of pounamu varieties only - just to give you an insight into the basics). The image above: Kaka poria (bird leg-ring) pounamu (bowenite), Tangiwai variety, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound). Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Kura Pounamu is showing at Te Papa until February 2011.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Three Red Tiki......

Hanging on a Wall
Three Red Tiki
All About to Fall

A Winter View

Carved Waharoa
Phillipstown, Christchurch
October 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the Edge of a Stream

I drive by these poupou (poles) several times a week and have been doing so for years. I finally stopped recently to take photographs and then set about the marathon task of trying to find out who had created them and why. Thanks to the helpful team in the Transport and Greenspace Unit of Christchurch City Council, I now have the details. Firstly, the location – a small clearing beside the Otakaro (Avon) River, near the Barbadoes Cemetery where Barbadoes and Salisbury Streets meet Cambridge Terrace. Now called Cambridge Green, the area was created to highlight an area of cultural and historical significance, which, like other areas along Otakaro, has great importance to the local iwi and hapu, Ngai Tahu and Te Ngai Tuahuriri. Of particular interest is Saint Mary’s Stream, which flows into the Otakaro at this point.
The junction of St Mary’s Stream and the Otakaro was once the site of Puari Pa, home to the chief, Tautahi after whom, Otautahi/Christchurch is named. According to library records too, it is thought that this spot is where Tautahi married Waitaha princess, Te Auru in the 18th century, consolidating bonds between the Maori families of Kaiapoi and Koukourarata (Port Levy, Banks Peninsular); and between Ngai Tahu and Waitaha. The sacred waters of the stream were said to have been used to bless this union - Maori believed the wairua (spirit) of the water had healing powers and it was often used by tohunga.
The Otakaro was also an important source of food for the people of the Puari Pa. They gathered tuna (eels), inaka/inanga (whitebait), Kokopu (native trout), koukoupara (cocabullies), parera (grey duck) and putakitaki (Paradise shelducks) from its waters and banks; and harakeke (flax), which grew well along its banks, was used for weaving clothing and mats and making ropes. It’s interesting to stand on this quiet site today and contemplate what life might have been like in that busy pa. The waters of the stream now form a pool on one side of the small green before flowing into the Otakaro.
The three large poupou have been erected here as an acknowledgement of the historical importance of the site. They were originally commissioned by Di Menzes and purchased by the Hagley/Ferrymead Community Board. They were created by tohuka whakairo (master carver) George Edwards, (Ngai Tahu) of Wairewa, who has created a number of handsome works for many organisations, including the impressive Pouhake at Nga Hau e Wha National Marae, here in Christchurch. On consultation with Reverend Maurice Manawaroa Gray, Upoko (Chairman) of Te Runaka ki Otautahi, Ngai Tahu, it was decided the poupou needed plinths to tie them to the ground. These were subsequently designed and created by the City Council City Solutions team and the Maori designs on them were created by Paula Rigby, Maori Arts Advisor, Christchurch City Council. The three poupou represent the three waves of migration to Christchurch and were installed on site in August 2005. The site has a Wahi Tapu registration with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and has received a Christchurch Star Heritage Award. Which all sets me to thinking just how much more enriched our knowledge of ‘our place’ can and ought to be. There’s something special and intangible about standing on a spot that once teemed with a different history, with a vibrant life now layered over by time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meet the People - 26

Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – At just 14, Hokitika’s Holly Robinson (Ngai Tahu), knows exactly where’s she’s going in life and she plans to get there fast. The fact that she was born without a lower left arm has never stopped her from doing anything and she certainly hasn’t let it stand in her way of incredible athletic success. “I was seven when I decided I was going to win everything I entered,” says Holly. “I’ve always had big plans and my main goal now is to attend the 2012 Paralympics in London as part of the New Zealand team.” Holly already has more trophies, certificates and national records than you can poke a stick at and for her, it’s just the beginning. Her parents, Steve and Pauline say she’s always been competitive – “right from when she started playing football at four,” says Steve. “She’s very outgoing and very determined. We got her an artificial limb when she was small but she kept throwing it away and even without it, she could tie her own shoelaces by the time she was three.”
Holly started with rugby and netball at four. She still loves netball and is currently a member of three teams - the Westland High School team, a regional rep team and the South Island Secondary Schools team; but athletics are her real passion. She currently holds the Paralympics New Zealand senior and junior records for discus, javelin, shot put and long jump. She is a member of the Greymouth Senior Athletic Club, Parafed Canterbury and now, the Paralympics New Zealand Under-20 squad, which competed in the Australian Paralympics Youth Games in Melbourne in October. Since 2006 she has accumulated a string of awards and selections into representative teams; and in 2007 she was a finalist and runner-up in the Hokitika Lions Young Achievers’ Award. She was nominated for the Westland Sports Sportsman of the Year award this year and just to top all that off, she recently scored 100% in her netball exams, qualifying her to become a netball umpire. It goes without saying that most of Holly’s time is given over to physical activity. She trains or plays sport six days a week. That includes a gym session once a week, playing basketball, training for her three netball teams and several hours a week with her Greymouth athletics coach, Danny Spark.
Not content to rest just yet, Holly has applied for a place in the New Zealand Academy of Sports fast track programme, ‘Xccelerate 2 Xcellence,’ which aims to identify and support paralympic sports talent. She is also determined to get to the Paralympic World Games in Christchurch in 2011 and then to the Paralympic Games in London in 2012. “That’s my next big challenge. That’s what I want most of all,” says Holly. “Getting to London in 2012 would be the best thing ever.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Small Visual Moment

Just a Single Carved Moment
At Cathedral Square Market
Christchurch - October

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Part of a Pattern

Traditional Koru Patterns
Hiding Behind Harakeke Leaves

From the Kete Files

Small Red Beads
Decorate a Northland Kete

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Bird in the Bush

I’ve introduced you to our fabulous kereru before but I thought these photographs warranted a second post. I took them some months back in the native bird enclosure at Orana Wildlife Park here in Christchurch. Officially Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae, this gorgeous chubby bird is usually known as kereru in Maori, although Northland Maori also call it kuku or kukupa. Maori hunted the birds for food and their feathers and although it is now illegal to hunt kereru, they are still caught illegally in some places. That, coupled with habitat loss, competition and predation, has seen their numbers gradually decline – not that it seems that way sometimes, when these fat birds ‘whoosh’ across the treetops in search of their favourite berries.
Since the extinction of the moa, the kereru is now the only New Zealand native bird with a large enough beak to eat, digest and disperse the large fruits of native karaka, tawa and taraire trees and without them, large tracts of native forest would soon begin to disappear. Thankfully, in a good year, with plentiful food supplies, they can nest up to four times, laying a single egg in a flimsy nest, which hatches after 28 days. Particularly diligent pairs of birds have been known to incubate an egg in one next, at the same time looking after a large chick in a second nest nearby.
When you get up close to these birds you can see why they would have been a popular part of the Maori diet. Growing to around 22 inches in length, they usually weigh between 550 and 850 grams – plenty chubby enough for a taste treat. They’re one of my favourite birds - not to eat I hasten to add – rather to admire. I love their slightly-out-of-proportion bodies – the tiny heads and that big cuddly puffed-out chest; the iridescent glow of their colourful feathers; and the soft cooing sound they make as they roost high up in the trees. They’re still relatively common in Canterbury – especially over on Banks Peninsular. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Whale of a Tale

On Wednesday, I was sitting in a cafe when I heard there had been a whale stranding on Southshore Beach, near New Brighton, Christchurch. I've seen whales in the ocean before but never up close, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a firsthand glimpse at one of these magnificent ocean creatures. I grabbed my camera and off I went. Unfortunately, the whale - a five-metre lactating female Cuvier's beaked whale - died just as I arrived but for all the sadness of that, there was still a beauty in the moment - her silky smooth grey skin, the yellow and white lichen-like speckles, her upright tail fin. Like most people there, I stood there will a mix of sadness and awe.

Despite the best efforts of those who had arrived early, while the whale was still struggling on the outgoing tide, it seemed inevitable that she would die. Department of Conservation representatives present said she may have already been ill, or perhaps hit by a boat and she may have come ashore to die. As is normal practice in the case of any whale stranding on the New Zealand coastline, the local Maori iwi (tribe), in this case Ngai Tahu, had been informed of the whale's death. They are then allowed to take the dead whale's jaw bone to use for carving. The body of the whale would then studied to determine a cause of death and then buried. Anyone who has watched the multi-awardwinning New Zealand movie "Whale Rider," will know that whales have a special place in Maori mythology. The North Island's East Coast iwi have often incorporated the whale into their carvings - an acknowledgement to the ancestral story of Uenuku and his sons Paikea and Ruatapu. Paikea is said to have survived a disaster at sea in which many others drowned, by calling to the gods and being saved by a whale - his tipuna (ancestors). He rode the whale to New Zealand and settled with the people at Whangara on the East Coast. The two large tribes, Ngati Porou (Eastland) and the South Island's Ngai Tahu both claim a strong ancestral links back to Paikea.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Treasured Stone

A stunning new exhibition has opened at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. Entitled “Kura Pounamu: Treasured Stone of New Zealand”, the exhibition features over 200 pounamu taonga (greenstone treasures) from across New Zealand. In addition to works from Te Papa’s own collection, visitors will have a rare opportunity to see luminous pounamu treasures from special private collections including the New Zealand Olympic Team’s mauri stone that travels with them to competitions; and touchstones from the South Island iwi (tribe), Ngai Tahu.
Valued for its beauty, strength and durability, pounamu is found only in the South Island and it has traditionally been used for centuries as a peace-maker, weapon, adornment, tool and treasure. Kura Pounamu showcases traditional and contemporary pieces, including a breathtaking mass display of hei tiki (pendants in human form, as shown above), ear pendants, necklaces, tools for carving (adzes and chisels) and a wall dedicated to a display of mere pounamu (nephrite weapons). Many of these objects have a whakapapa (geneology) and fascinating histories, many of them linked to famous New Zealand historical events and people.
Visitors will also be able to enter an immersion room, where they can touch pounamu boulders on loan to Te Papa by the kaitiaki (guardians) of pounamu, the South Island’s Ngai Tahu iwi. Acclaimed musician Richard Nunns and Dteve Garden has also composed pieces especially for the show, which will be played on pounamu taonga puoro (traditional Maori musical instruments made of pounamu). It’s an interactive area where visitors can hear the stories associated with pounamu; and where they can also record and share their own stories.
Pounamu has always played a powerful role in affirming and building a variety of relationships for Maori. In the past, families exchanged pounamu treasures when people married to symbolise their new connection; and former enemies presented each other with gifts (pounamu mere perhaps) to establish links and lasting peace. In some districts, this peace-making tradition was called te tatau pounamu – a ‘greenstone door.’ This extensive exhibition, which occupies Te Papa’s Level 4, also tells the stories of important events – the story of the ceremonial pounamu used at the signing of the Ngai Tahu (Pounamu) Vesting Act 1997, when the new Labour Government formally handed ownership of pounamu to Ngai Tahu. If you’d like to know more about this exciting exhibition, Te Papa have developed a mini-site –, which provides further information about the exhibition and the taonga in it. All images shown here are the property of and are used courtesy of The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; and should not be downloaded. They are as follows: Top: Hei tiki (pendant in human form), 2008, by Lewis Tamihana Gardiner (b.1972), Te Arawa, Ngati Awa, Whanau-a-Apanui, Ngai Tahu iwi (tribes), pounamu (nephrite), synthetic fibre. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Second from Top: Hei tiki, pounamu, inanga variety, Arahura River, Westland. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Centre: Hei Tiki, pounamu, inanga variety, Arahura River, Westland. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Bottom pair – top image: ‘Tuhiwai’ mere pounamu (nephrite weapon), Ngati Toa and Ngai Tahu (tribes), Otago, pounamu (nephrite) kahurangi variety, Westland. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Bottom image of pair: Hei matau (hook-shaped pendant) pounamu kawakawa variety, Westland. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The exhibition runs untils February 2011.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meet the People - 25

Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things - Whirimako Black (Ngati Tuhoe, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Ranginui, Kahungunu, Te Whakatohea, Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Te Arawa, Ngati Awa), is one of New Zealand’s leading Maori vocalists. I was wandering around town last weekend (here in Christchurch) and couldn’t help noticing all the posters announcing the arrival of this award-winning jazz diva, who will perform with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra at the Christchurch Town Hall on Friday, October 30. Known for her expressive voice (and her traditional chin moko), Black appears regularly at festivals in New Zealand, Australia and Europe. She sings in both Te Reo Maori and English, often works with traditional Maori instruments and has produced six solo albums. Several of her albums have been finalists in the NZ Music Awards, with her debut album ‘Hinepukohurangi: Shrouded in Mist’ being named Best Maori album in 2001. In 2006 she was awarded a NZ Order of Merit for services to Maori music.

Maori Place Names - 32

Whakapara, Northland
"A Clearing in a Bush"
May 2009 Ajr

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flying the Flag

The Tribal Flag
Ngati Kahungunu

Maori Place Names - 31

Near Dargaville
Far North, North Island
May 2009 Ajr

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Northern Discovery

My time in the Far North (April-May this year) was a busy blur of hotel and travel guide business, photographs and unscheduled side-tracks down dusty, gravel roads leading to who-knows-where. I discovered all sorts of things that way - places I'd never been to before, places I knew nothing about. Sometimes I didn't even have to veer off the main roads; I just came upon new surprises quite by chance.
This was one of them - the delightful Te Kaiwaha Marae at Waiwhatawhata. I would have whizzed right by it had my attention not been caught by the yellow roadsign marking the Waiwhatawhata Stream. That was a lovely long name I HAD to have for my Maori Place Names Series, so I pulled up in a hurry - and found myself right outside the gates to pretty Te Kaiwaha Marae, tucked away, hidden from road view by thickets of harakeke (flax) and native trees. All I have been able to establish about the marae is that it is home to the Ngapuhi hapu (sub-tribe) Ngati Korokoro/Ngati Wharara of the Hokianga.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where Geysers Played

I photographed these unusual carvings at Rotorua’s Malfroy Geysers in Government Gardens, near the museum. They're the only white carvings I've ever seen and I’m not to sure about the significance of them; but certainly there is plenty of available information about Jean Michel Camille Malfroy, who was born in France in 1839. He arrived in New Zealand during the goldrushes of the 1860s and settled in Ross in Westland. He was an inventive engineer and in 1886 he arrived in Rotorua to work for the Crown Lands Development, monitoring lake levels and thermal activity after the Tarawera eruption and overseeing work at the Rotorua Sanitorium. In 1891 he became chairman of the Rotorua Town Board and he established a diplomatic relationship in his dealings with local Maori.
Although well known for a wide range of inventions associated with improvements at the Rotorua Sanitorium, Malfroy also made a name for himself for his work in creating the trio of artificial geysers, appropriately named The Malfroy Geysers, which is where these carvings now stand. The geysers, now dormant, were capable of playing to a height of 12 metres and were formed by directing hot water from nearby Oruawhata Springs, through pipes fitted with regulating valves. Oruawhata, it should be noted, was a deep thermal chasm filled with boiling water and poisonous gases, which was used by Maori as a burial pit for the remains of warriors. The pool and its urupa (burial ground) was filled in many years ago but the site is still held in high regard by the people of Ngati Whakaue – which, I suspect, is what these carvings may be in honour of.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Tiki in a Window

How Much is that Tiki in the Window?
(A Small Moment of Retail Prettiness)
Christchurch. October 2009. Ajr

Maori Place Names - 30

Awatere, East Cape, North Island

Friday, October 16, 2009

Treasure Trove

Waka Huia 2009 Areta Wilkinson. Image: Studio La Gonda
Waka Huia is a treasure trove of precious jewellery, objects and stories created by leading New Zealand jeweller, Areta Wilkinson (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe/Waitaha, Pakeha) – a beautiful, personal exhibition that opens tonight at Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery, in Napier. Traditionally, a waka huia was a treasure or feather box used by Maori to store personal and special objects associated with adornment and spirituality. This Waka Huia takes viewers on a journey through Wilkinson’s life history, connecting each object to korero (stories) that reflect her delight in the extraordinary nature of ordinary moments.
A Stolen Moment 2009 Areta Wilkinson. Image: Studio La Gonda
Each story is intensely personal, anchored to Wilkinson’s own whanau, iwi and community but, through the act of storytelling, she evokes a wider narrative that considers the role that everyday objects play in our collective cultural memory. Areta Wilkinson (b.1969) has been making jewellery since 1991. She has worked as a design lecturer at Unitec Auckland and has made brooches for Queen Elizabeth II, the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu and for Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. She currently lives and works from her studio in Oxford, in North Canterbury; and in May this year she received one of New Zealand’s most prestigious awards for contemporary jewellery – TheNewDowse Gold Award.
Tawai 2009 Areta Wilkinson. Image: Studio La Gonda
Waka Huia is a touring exhibition and as it travels to different venues around New Zealand, it is gradually re-shaped by its journey. As a special addition to the Waka Huia project, Wilkinson visited the collection of Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust/Ruawharo Ta-u-Rangi to research a new series of works. Among the collection was a small toggle made from albatross bone. Albatross bones were prized by Maori, used in instruments and adornments that utilised their strong, hollow form. This indigenous ‘finding’ (a jewellery component/clasp,hook,back) captured Wilksinon’s attention and she has translated the artefact into a series of sterling silver toggles, entitled ‘Memory Aid I, II and III. For Wilkinson, this series acts as a reference point to the local history of adornment. All images by Studio Gonda, courtesy of Areta Wilkinson 2009. Waka Huia is open to the public at Hawke's Bay Museum & Art Gallery from October 17 to March 14, 2010.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Of Washing and Whare

I’d been driving for quite some time when I got to Ruapeka Marae, near Fitzgerald Glade on State Highway 5 on the way to Rotorua, so I was more than happy to pull up on the wide road berm and sit awhile. When I lived in the North Island, I must have driven past this particular marae a hundred times and never really noticed it. This time was different. I pushed my seat back, opened the windows and just sat listening to the birds, wondering what went on here on an average day.
There was no one about and I have since discovered it is one of the many Ngati Raukawa marae – of the hapu Ngati Tukorehe. Their wharenui is named Rangimarie and their whare kai is Te Aroha. It’s a pretty spot, with the bright yellow wharenui sitting to one side of a large paddock against the leafy native bush backdrop of Tukorehe Reserve. Across the fields there was a small cluster of houses – one with this fabulous billowing clothes line. (I’m not sure why, but I find clothes lines full of washing a very appealing photographic subject). After I had spent a little time here, I drove on through Fitzgerald Glade and, seeing a sign for Tapapa Marae, I swung immediately left off the highway and happily drove down a winding country road. I carried on for miles but I must have driven right past it because I ended up back out on the highway having completed a great big loop….and had to drive all the way back past Ruapeka Marae a second time. It was a fruitless search at one level, but on my two month trip around New Zealand in April-May, I made many detours like that – and I loved every second of it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Tuwharetoa Experience

As you head into the Wairakei area near Taupo in the central North Island, the first thing you’ll notice will be the steam – huge, cloud-like billows of it rising from the earth. You’re in heartland geothermal territory here – everything bubbles and steams – and hot pools in the Wairakei area have been used for bathing and as healing spas by tourists and locals since the 19th and 20th centuries. The main bathing pool, Te Kiri o Hinekai, was closed in the 1960s though, when construction began on the massive Wairakei Geothermal Power Development, which now dominates the area. But in 1996 a new tourism venture between Netcor and Contact Energy, saw the original steam piped back to Te Kiri o Hinekai, along with the piping of hot, silica-enriched waters over a manmade structure to create natural silica terraces. The bulk of the terrace construction was carried out in 2001 and now, with the help of nature, the multi-coloured silica terraces are developing well.
At the heart of this whole development are the people of Ngati Tuwharetoa, who have called this area home and used the therapeutic waters of Te Kiri o Hinekai for generations – since the time of the legendary tohunga and great navigator, Ngatoroirangi, from whom the Tuwharetoa are descended. Today you can get an inside peek into Tuwharetoa legends and customs by taking part in the Wairakei Terraces Maori Cultural Experience, which will take you through a replica Maori village and introduce you to the pleasures of the traditional hangi and song and dance performances.
When I was in Taupo in April, I stopped in at Bayview Wairakei Resort, which is diagonally opposite the Wairakei Terraces Maori village. As I was coming out of their driveway, I was lured into the second by the handsome carvings that designate the village’s main entrance. I sadly didn’t have time to stop for the whole experience but I did take these photographs – which included a little peep through the bushes to this divinely cute little wharenui. You can find out much more about this terrific venue by clicking on their website:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meet the People - 24

Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – Alex Nathan (Te Roroa, Ngati Whatua, Ngapuhi) works as a contemporary jeweller, referencing the traditional patterns of his Maori upbringing. Up until the late 1980s, Alex’s background and experience in Maori art had been in the traditional materials of his tipuna (ancestors) – bone, stone, wood and shell. That all changed when he was introduced to Hopi silversmith, Michael Kabotie on a visit to the United States. Since then, he has adopted silver as his preferred artistic medium, although his work continues to reflect and evolving process of adaptation and exploration of the traditional taniko designs (as seen on the intricate woven borders of cloaks and mats), kowhaiwhai (painted rafters) and tukutuku (ornamental lattice work in carved meeting houses). His work has been exhibited in New Zealand and in two shows in Vancouver, Canada in 1999 and 2003. You can see examples of Alex’s silver jewellery by visiting His work is listed under Maori artists.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Tene Waitere Legacy

Maori art is generally considered to be ‘a frontal art’ – that is, the traditional works were designed to be viewed from the front; whereas the less common three-dimensional pieces like these, could be viewed from all angles. That said, even they feature the most detailed artistic expression in the front view. I photographed these fabulous figures at the gates to the Rotorua Museum grounds. It’s a carving style I love and I’m always drawn to the intricate spiral patterns used to depict shoulders and buttocks. I keep meaning to make a concentrated photographic study of these spiral patterns – they come in a wide variety of designs – but I keep forgetting. So much to do, so little time!
These figures stand at the Hinemoa and Arawa Street entrances to the Rotorua museum grounds and I copied the text from a plaque nearby, which I assumed was referring to these carvings. I hope so because here it is: “These carvings were presented by the people of Ngati Whakaue to commemorate their original gift of land in 1880. Hei oranga mo nga iwi katoa a tea o – for the benefit of the people of the world. They were carved by master carver Tene Waitere and they depict tribal ancestors.” I’ve just spent a fascinating hour reading about Tene Waitere (Ngati Tarawhai), who was born near Kaitaia in Northland in 1854 and died in Rotorua in 1931.

He was regarded as one of New Zealand’s most prolific and innovative Maori carvers and his wide range of work – from canoes and meetings houses to walking sticks, tobacco pipes and replicas of traditional artefacts for the growing tourism market - and for royal visitors -in the early 1900s – lives on as some of the finest carving from the time. Many of his carvings were created for and are still at Whakarewarewa Maori Village, where he lived after surviving the Tarawera eruption that descecrated his village of Te Wairoa. His grand-daughter in fact, was the great Rangitiaria, or Guide Rangi as she became known – perhaps the earliest trailblazer for Maori tourism for her work guiding tourists through the famous Pink and White Terraces, which were destroyed by the Tarawera eruption. Waitere's story is an intriguing one and thankfully is well documented. I intend to look out one or two excellent books that detail his life and work.


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