News | 18 June 2024
Share on social

The story behind Whetuu Maarama

Rising up out of the water and onto the land is Whetuu Maarama, the new waka at the upgraded Te Aro Mahanaplay area in Frank Kitts Park.

close up image of whetuu Maarama

Designed by artist Matthew McIntyre-Wilson (Taranaki, Ngā Māhanga and Titahi), the waka is a new and unique piece of the play area – the first of its kind on the waterfront in Pōneke.

With a background in jewellery making, traditional weaving and object-making with raranga (plaiting) and whatu (threading) patterns, Matthew says he was brought on board to work alongside the Council and Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika to develop the waka and tell the stories of the area.

“The placement of the waka suggests that it was brought out of the water and onto the land. This is emphasised by the rocks at the entrance to the playground, suggesting that it’s a Tauranga waka. The shores were once lined with waka of all kinds.”

With the waka sitting close to the water at the entrance to the playground, he landed on the design of a waka tētē, which is known as a fishing canoe. The name of the play area itself, Te Aro Mahana, speaks to past voyages of boats finding their future and the historical Te Aro Pā site.

Family enjoying whetuu maarama
Matthew and his family enjoying the waka

Not only does the waka tētē connect the playground to the land, but Matthew has used the traditional elements of the waka to tell the love story of stars.

“It shows the celestial partnership between Rehua as the summer star and Puanga as the winter star. The relationship brought them their child Puawānanga, known as the flowers of the spring that cover the forest canopy and drop white flowers to the ground.

“Puanga can be seen on the taurapa (stern of the boat) and Rehua on the tauihu (bow of the waka) with Puawānanga depicted in the hull of the waka, there are petals on the ground, and this shows the love between stars and te taiao (the environment).”

The waka tētē also connects to a key piece of playground equipment – the hīnaki, a giant climbing net for tamariki. This ties into the play-matting designed by Matthew for the playground, which includes imagery of tuna swimming in and out of the hīnaki.

While this is the first waka in a play area on the waterfront, Matthew hopes that this is the start of many more popping up across Pōneke.

“I want kids to try paddling in the waka, climb in and out, and jump off it! Whatever they want to do is the right thing!

“That’s the idea of the waka – tamariki can learn about the different elements and make those connections in the future.”