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The Carved Figures In Auaukiterangi

The Carved Figures in Auaukiterangi:...There are forty eight named figures depicted on the carved timbers of Auaukiterangi House. They demonstrate a very wide coverage of tribal links, with lines from other canoes which have become united with the Tainui ancestral lines.

The Ancient Art of Carving:

According to mythology the origin of carving in wood is assigned to one Rua.

The story goes that when Rua paid a visit to Tangaroa, the Sea-god, he found him rejoicing over the completion of his house, which was a whare whakairo; that is a house adorned with decorated designs.

These designs, however, were merely of painted patterns; there were no carved work. Hence Rua asked Tangaroa to pay him a visit and he would see some real carving.

When Tangaroa did so, and approached Rua's house, he saw two men standing in front of the house apparently waiting to receive him.

He walked up to one of these men and proceeded to salute him in the manner of the Maori by pressing noses.

Then he heard Rua laugh at him, saying: "Now you see what wood carving is. The figures are so life-like that you have been deceived by them!"

In Maori carving, the human figure was the most general art motif. The human figures were more often than not, carved to represent symbols of their gods, mythological culture heroes, and renowed ancestors.

Generally speaking the carving experts made no attempt to copy the normal human anatomical proportions.


Recommended Maori Carving Book:


Rauru: Tene Waitere, Maori Carving, Colonial History


Tene Waitere of Ngati Tarawhai (1854-1931) was the most innovative Maori carver of his time; his works reached global audiences decades before the globalisation of culture became a fashionable topic. Rauru is the highlight of a famous anthropological museum in Germany. Hinemihi, the carved house featured in one section of this book, sheltered survivors of the Tarawera eruption in 1886 before being removed to the park of an English country house. The magnificent His carved Ta Moko panel is one of Te Papa the Museum of New Zealand's icons. Three out of four historic Maori meeting-houses located outside New Zealand were carved or partly carved by Waitere...» read more

Ancestral figures of Auaukiterangi House:

What follows is an explanation of the named ancestral carved figures of Auaukiterangi House. We shall start from the front of the building, and attention is drawn to the front pillar, te pou mua.

  1. On top of the gable and above the front pillar, the highest feature on the building is a carved head which is called a tiki. A tiki of a tribal meeting-house is the most important item of the named carved images, and in this instance because of its importance it has been called after HOTUROA. He was, as mentioned earlier, the commander of the Tainui Canoe, and the second eldest son of Auaukiterangi.
  2. On Te Pou mua, or front pillar, the carved figures in descending order are of Hoturoa's main line of descent in chronological order. On that account this is the most important genealogical line of descent of the Tainui tribes.
  3. HOTUOPE - Hoturoa's son
  4. HOTUMATAPU - Hotuope's son
  5. MOTAl - Hotumatapu's son
  6. UE - Motai's son
  7. Hotuope and Hotumatapu are listed in all Tainui migration accounts as having come on the Tainui Canoe, and some say Motai also came with his parents as an infant in arms.

    3.   Turning to the two carved supports (amo) for the gables maihi, we note two carved figures on each of the amo. The two on our right, as we look at the house are:

    • RAKAMAOMAO - on top, and his son
    • KAKATI

    4.    On the mahau, or porchway, there are four wall figures on the right, behind the amo we have just described. These images are representations of the following ancestors:

    • MANGO - (The Shark) Mango was the origin of the Ngati Mango, a fighting tribe of the Kawhia Harbour lands, until they were displaced by the Ngati Toarangatira.
    • KAIHAMU - (The Eater of Scraps) A high priest of renown with power to kill by uttering spells. He was also a warrior, and it was as a result of a victory over the redoubtable Rangihouhiri, of the tribe of Nga Oho of the Tauranga-Te Puke district that he won the hand of Tuparahaki, the much sought after widow of the Waitaha high chief, Tukutehe.
    • URUTIRA - The son of Kaihamu and the Arawa chieftainess, Tuparahaki, married Kearangi, formerly of the Marokopa district.
    • TUPAHAU - A warrior who was destined to oust the invading Waikato tribes under their fighting leaders, Tamaoho and Rakapare, from his mother's ancestral lands in the valley of the Marokapa river.

    5.   Turning to our left we have the two carved figures on the front amo, or gable support; and these represent:

    • TUHIANGA - on top, and his son,
    • POUTAMA - The decendants of Poutama are numerous in the land.

    Through his son, Mango, as the founder of powerful Kawhia tribes, we have the source of much of the romance and stirring history of Kawhia and its people.

    6.   Re-entering the mahau we take note of the four wall images on our left. Thecarved figures from the outer one to the corner are:

    • HAUMIA - and in chronological order of generations to his great-grandson, Whaita:
    • WHAITA - Whaita was one of the foremost war leaders of the Tainui tribes.

    Arising out of the death of one of his wives at the hands of the "People of the Pumice lands," the Ngati Kahupungapunga, in the Putaniru district, Whaita and his able lieutenants, Tamatehura, Wairangi, Upokoiti and Pipito wages relentless warfare against these people.

    Finally at Pohaturoa, on the banks of the Waikato river below Atiamuri, Whaita and his army annihilated the Ngati Kahupungapunga.

    7.  On entering the house we shall proceed in the same order as was observed in the kawa, or solemn Dedication.

    We shall perambulate anti-clockwise from the right and round the house and back to the doorway. The first two carved figures, facing the rear of the house, are of the two famous brothers:­

    • WHATIHUA (The Fruit I gathered)
    • TURONGO (The Renowned and Upstanding One).

    The story of rivalry of these two brothers from their childhood days, until they finally married their respective wives from the Takitimu and Aotea peoples, is one of the life stories of Kawhia that lives on in the minds of the Tainui people.

    Whatihua alienated the affections of his brother's betrothed, Ruaputahanga and installed her in his commodious house, Wharenui, on the southern shores of the Aotea Harbour.

    His brother, Turongo, dismantled his house (later named Whare o Ngarue, the House of the Earthquake) when he lost his betrothed.

    He went to Haretaunga, now called Hawkes Bay, and at Kahotea, near the present site of Te Aute Boys' College he won the heart of the daughter of the high chief, Tuaka.

    She was the famous puhi (a virgin-usually a chieftain's daughter-specially set apart) and much sought after beauty of the East Coast tribes, Mahinarangi (The Moon glow of the Heavens).

    The full life story of Whatihua and Tuirongo may be read in "Mahinarangi, the Moon-glow of the Heavens" (1945)

    8.  Proceeding along the right side, or the iho nui, of the house-the place of honour in all Maori meeting houses-we shall come (in the corner) to two taniwha figures.

    They are two of several depicted in these carved figures which have not been individually named.

    For our purpose they come under the all-embracing designation of "Waikato taniwha rau" (Waikato and its hundred dragons)


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