Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A New Ngai Tahu Whare Tipuna

Close to 1,000 people gathered in the tiny Lyttelton harbour settlement of Rapaki last Saturday, for the dawn opening of Wheke, the new whare tipuna of Te Hapu o Ngati Wheke, Ngai Tahu that has been ten years in the planning and making.

It was always going to be a long day - I woke up at 2am and couldn't get back to sleep, so I was ready for action way ahead of the 4.30am Whakatuwhera - the dawn ceremony. Later in the morning - after breakfast for 600, when the sun was up - a team of waka taua (war canoe) paddlers arrived at Rapaki's Gallipoli Jetty (built in 1916 as a memory to soldiers who fell at Gallipoli) to start the second half of the formal celebrations - the powhiri for invited dignatories.

It was a baking hot day and while everyone huddled under umbrellas, sunhats and nearby trees, local kaumatua (elders) welcomed the guests. I spent some of that time taking photographs - hundreds of photographs - and these are a tiny sample of some of my favourites from the day. I'll be bringing a few more to this blog in the coming days.

I always find a wealth of photographic material at Maori events - the carved tokotoko (walking sticks), the beauty of the hongi (greeting; above), the hats, the splendour of carvings, the luxury of feather korowai (cloaks- below), the intricacy of patterns and ta moko. I'm never short of a subject.

I'll bring you more of the hats, the tokotoko, the hongi and the exterior carvings in future blogs. Unfortunately, I can't show you the exquisite carvings and tukutuku panels and the elaborately painted heke (rafters) inside the whare tipuna. While I was able to photograph them for Ngai Tahu's TE KARAKA magazine, that's where they have to stay, as photography is not generally permitted inside a wharenui. Suffice to say, Master Carver, Christchurch-based Ngati Porou artist, Riki Manuel and his team have created a sublime interior that is completely unique. Manuel has invented what he loosely terms "a Rapaki style" that is based on local whakapapa, birds, plants and kaimoana (seafood) - in short, the unique local lifestyle that sets this divine little community - just across the Port Hills from Christchurch - apart. www.ngaitahi.iwi.nz


  1. Kia ora Adrienne, lovely pics you have here. I was looking for some pics taken of the day, to link to some friends. The whare is just glorious, and so was the day of the opening. I look forward to seeing the interior shots that you took in Te Karaka.

    ka mihi,

    na Ariana Tikao

  2. Thanks Ariana - it was a beautiful day wasn't it and the wharenui is quite special inside. Adrienne


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