News | 30 June 2021
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Ahi Kā waharoa recall harbour’s cultural heritage

Wellingtonians and visitors attending Wellington City Council’s Matariki ki Pōneke Festival will be welcomed to Ahi Kā by two special waharoa (entranceways) that pay cultural tribute to the capital.

Photograph by Stephen A'Court.

The waharoa will be displayed on large digital screens and were created by renowned Māori artists David Hakaraia, of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Paoa, and Rawiri Barriball, of Te Rarawa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Atiawa.

The entryways will be located at the two waterfront entrances to Ahi Kā, which is taking place 5pm-8.30pm on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 July on Wellington Waterfront. The celebrations will feature live performances, storytelling, film screenings, and fire and light installations.

Rawiri says the designs on the waharoa were inspired by the surrounding features seen in and around the Wellington harbour.

“I’m hoping that visitors to Wellington can have a better understanding of the area through the visual concepts that David and I have created.”

One of the waharoa, which will be located on Te Papa promenade, depicts the two taniwha, Ngake and Whātaitai, who inhabited Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington harbour.

“The surrounding whenua and moana were shaped by these two taniwha. When Whātaitai died his soul left him in the form of a bird, Te Keo,” David says.

This is reflected in the design, along with stingrays that still reside in Wellington harbour, and Tangaroa, who is the great Atua of the sea and creatures that live within it.

Two brightly coloured waharoa, or entranceways, that have Māori designs including a taniwha, the stars, and a stingray, that reflect Wellington’s cultural heritage.

The second waharoa, to be located on Taranaki Wharf, highlights Wellington’s famous attribute – wind.

“This is illustrated here by Ngā Hau E Wha, the Four Winds. It is also a representation of the diverse cultures we have in this city,” Rawiri says.

“The three feathers within the design represent chieftainship and pay homage to the three initial iwi of this area.”

Rawiri says Matariki is a time for whānau gathering, a time to refocus and set future goals, and a time of rejuvenation.

David says it’s also a time to remember those who have recently passed, the legacy they have left behind, and the new life that has entered the world.

“It’s about self-reflection. Also, it’s about educating our tamariki, so that they really understand the occasion and meaning behind Matariki and it doesn't become trivialised as just another day off – that they appreciate the spiritual and practical meaning behind it as well.”

Wellington City Council Events Delivery Manager David Daniela says he is delighted to have artists of David and Rawiri’s calibre contributing to the city’s Matariki event.

For more details about Matariki ki Pōneke Festival and the Ahi Kā events, visit: