Photos from the Ko Tawa Maori Carving Exhibition
- the Maori carving collection of Gilbert Mair
The surname Mair is well known in Whangarei, as it comes up in a street name and is the name of our favourite park. Less well known is the background of Captain Gilbert Mair, believed to be the first pakeha ( white) baby born in Whangarei ( 1843) and who grew up amongst Maori,
who named him Kawa .
Gilbert Mair grew up amongst Maori, learned the language, assisted them in their dealings with the white people, and eventually was made a full chief of the Arawa tribe. During his work as a surveyor, soldier, Court Assessor, and interpreter, northern tribes presented Mair with valuable
taonga - precious ancestral treasures that the Maori had carved. Mair received these Maori carvings with appreciation and made sure that the ancestral story that accompanied them was never lost, passing on the taonga and their details to the Auckland Museum to be kept
These Maori carving treasures came to Whangarei Museum, where I photographed some for you. The artefacts are a wonderful view into the life of Maori in the 1800s, and provide exquisite examples of Maori carving.
A description of each piece follows. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger photos.
Tiheru - Bailer
Tiheru - bailer - presented by Kereopa's elder brother to Judge Bowen after the signing of Kereopa's death warrant in Napier. Later it passed into Mair's possession.
Koauau - Maori Flute
This koauau was made from the human bone of a priest. It was presented to Mair by Ngahuruhuru Pango on Te Papa-i-Ouru Marae, Ohinemutu, in 1870. Notably, it is also known as Tutanekai's flute. The story of Tutanekai and Hinemoa is the greatest Maori love story known.
Hei Matau - Maori Hooks
Although not part of the Ko Tawa exhibition, I thought this photo would be of interest. Displayed are two traditional hei matau, Maori fish hooks, used to hook the kahawai.
Mahe - sinkers
Again, not part of the exhibition, but an interesting collection of Maori mahe - fishing sinkers.
A protective talisman to ensure plentiful supplies of kumara ( sweet potato), named after an ancient ancestor of Hawaiki, Marutuhau. Presented to Mair by Wiremu Kingi at Torere in 1882.
Rakau whakapapa - genealogical memory stick
A genealogical stick used to help the bearer remember their full whakapapa ( ancestry), going back many generations, as you can see from the stick. This one was presented to Mair by Haerehuka Taua and his son Kanapu.
Paekoko o Tuhoto Ariki
Paekoko - perch for pet tui ( or koko - the Te Arawa name for the tui). Presented to Mair by Tuhoto Ariki at Wairoa in 1867.
Kumete - carved bowl
This beautiful carved bowl was presented to Mair by carver Wero Taroi from Okataina. Note the dog that the bowl is set on top of, whose name is Potaka Tawhiti and was revered by the Arawa people.
Taiaha - fighting weapon
This taiaha was used by Te Poinga a Toki around the late 1820s. It was presented to Mair by Horonuku in 1875.
Wakahuia - Treasure Box
This beautifully carved treasure box was designed to be hung from the rafters for safe keeping of small treasures. It was recovered by Mair from Tuhoto Ariki's whare ( house) while digging him out after the tragic Tarawera eruption in 1886.