Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One Waka - A Short History


This bottom photograph doesn't really do this beautiful waka (canoe)- Te Paranihi - justice. It's much bigger and much more handsome than it looks here- although the detail shot does hint at the intricate beauties that deserve close inspection. I photographed it recently at Otago Museum in Dunedin and I noted the following from the museum's exhibition notes: "The hull of this waka taua (Maori war canoe) was made in about 1840 in the Whanganui River valley for Paturomu, a chief based at Koroniti. The waka was first given the name Tauria Komene but in 1890 was renamed Te Paranihi in honour of the then Premier of New Zealand, John Ballance. Although designed as a waka taua, Te Paranihi was never used in fighting and probably had only a plain prow.
In 1932, the Otago Museum set about the preparation of Te Paranihi for display, using a tauihu (prow) and taurapa (stern) from an 1828 waka taua named Waikahua, built by Ngati Toa. These carvings had been part of an exchange of gifts between Matenga Taiaroa of Ngai Tahu and Te Rauparaha, and were donated to the Otago Museum at its foundation by Octavius Harwood, an early European settler on Otago Peninsula.
The carving of the rauawa (attached sides of the waka) was carried out by Thomas Chappe Hall. His work was based on a design used in the Taranaki region and is in harmony with the design of the tauihu, telling the Maori story of the creation of heaven and earth. The spirals represent the coming of light and knowledge to the world. www.otagomuseum.govt.nz

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