Rongowhakaata, Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa, Te Arawa, Tuwharetoa, Tahiti, Raiatea, Rarotonga.
This artwork depicts the stories and geographic history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara. The story focuses on Te Kahui Mounga as told by Taranaki Whanui and the seismic activity that have shaped Te Upoko o Te Ika, the head of the fish or the Wellington region. The artwork, rich in meaning, emphasises the importance of the land as lifeforce.
The central, large figure in the artwork is the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, Ruaumoko. Aotearoa is known for its earthquakes, Ruaumoko was chosen as he is one of the primary Atua in Te Ao Māori due to his frequent activity and origins spanning to the separation of Rangi and Papa.
Te Whanganui-a-Tara experiences a lot of seismic activity due to the Alpine fault running near our city to Te Waipounamu. Accounts of these events span back to Ngake and Whataitai and the 1855 quake that shaped our waterfront to our last big quake in 2016.
Ruaumoko is known as an angry god, sleeping in the womb of his mother Papatuanuku. He also harnesses the power of volcanoes and thunder. In the world of Māori to feature an atua is to receive blessing and protection from them.
"In my whanau’s experience when a large earthquake struck Gisborne in 2007, many of my family’s belongings were thrown to the floor. The only thing standing was an idol of Ruaumoko, one of my dad’s most fragile carvings, the idol’s stance signified his presence and protection, which is what the artwork’s role will be when featured at the building sites."
Jagged patterns across the work represent the power of thunder and volcanoes harnessed by Ruaumoko. The Atua is posed upside down like the unborn child within the womb of his mother, the home of Ruaumoko. The fingers spanning either side of Ruaumoko are the hands of Papatuanuku cradling her puku.
To either side of Ruaumoko’s chest are two eyes and scaled hands representing Te Ika a Maui more specifically, Te Upoko o Te Ika the region of Wellington and Wairarapa. Left whatu represents our harbour, right whatu lake Wairarapa.
Below are magma chambers, the lifeforce of the land. Ruaumoko’s head sits sleeping, the pattern surrounding him is the uterus and the birthing channel below, referencing also the Pā site, Kumutoto and Kumutoto stream near Lambton Quay, which was used as a birthing stream.
The entire art piece conveys the story of Te Kahui Mounga, the people who lived on Te Ika a Maui when it was fished out of the sea and inhabited the great mountains of Aotearoa. Some of these are Taranaki, Tongariro and Ruapehu, they are shown as the figures moving up the mountainside. They were also known to inhabit Te Upoko o Te Ika and are mentioned at the war memorial grounds and are known to have named the sacred hilltops of the surrounding area, such as Puke Ariki, Puke Atua, Puke Ahu, Te Ahumairangi, Tangi Te Keo and Matairangi.
Traditional kowhaiwhai patterns frame the figures and represent the mountains of Aotearoa, the hilltops of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, the anatomy of a mountain, the heart of the land and its sacredness to Māori.
The overarching triangle patterns are Niho Taniwha, depictiong strength and endurance.
To either side of the central figure are the Taniwha Ngake (left) and Whataitai (right). It is said they were summoned from the heavens by Te Kahui Mounga who recited their incantations from the Puke Atua hill tops. The Taniwha are depicted descending from above to signify this, their mouths bite into the land tying into the story of their actions that shaped the land. Whataitai shaping the west coast spilling from the Korokoro stream and stranded in the Hataitai/Kilbirnie area becoming the land; Ngake shaping the east smashing through to create the harbour channel.
The story itself references cataclysmic events; another similar event taking place 600 years ago known as Haowhenua where the land was scooped up joining Motukairangi (Miramar) to the mainland.
The sky and backdrop depict the wind and weather of Wellington as well as the cycle of seasons from left to right – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
The darker shapes in the work represent another known transliteration of Pōneke meaning moving through the night. The figures to the far sides represent Iwi who have migrated to the lands from Kupe and Ngai Tara to Taranaki Whanui.
Nga mihi nui, Taupuruariki Whakataka Brightwell (Ariki Arts)