Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


The Central and Southern Areas


Our knowledge of older carvings of the Tainui tribes of Waikato, the King Country, and the Manawatu comes from illustrations of five carved houses and various smaller carvings. Three of the houses were painted by Angas in the 1840s and the other two were photographed some 90-odd years ago. Some students have queried the accuracy of the Angas illustrations, but there is enough evidence to support the somewhat strange figures in some of the pictures. For instance, the extraordinary squat figures depicted in his painting of the monument to Te Wherowhero's daughter (see Phillipps, Carved Maori Houses of the Western and Northern Areas of New Zealand, 1955, p. 222) are to be seen in a photograph of the old “Tokanga nui a Noho” house originally built at Aotea Harbour before 1850 (Phillipps, ibid., p. 217) and on the threshold of a storehouse from Otaki, now in the Wanganui Museum. The general characteristics shown in Angas's pictures of Tainui carving are common to all Tainui work.

The characteristics of the main carved figures are: The head is flat or rounded at the top and generally rounded towards the chin. The eyes are almost invariably small and round or elliptical. The tongue is usually wide rooted, filling the width of the mouth, but long and narrowing to a point. The tongue generally reaches below the chin and sometimes touches one shoulder. There are usually three large teeth. The shoulders are domed and are often very large and carved in high relief. The arms are small and thin. There are usually three fingers on the hands, but four are quite common, and occasionally a hand has five.

The hips are generally in high relief and domed, but are often considerably smaller than the shoulders. The legs are sometimes long and narrow, but usually small and insignificant, with small, stubby feet with three to five toes. The surface carving is invariably rauponga, usually with three ridges between the rows of pakati. The rauponga is applied in an almost abandoned style, curving in all directions. The shoulders and hips are almost always decorated with bold rauponga spirals. There is usually a little surface carving on the upper part of the body, the lower part being left plain. The legs are often undecorated. The secondary figures, such as those on the paepae or bargeboards of a house, are usually squat, sometimes almost square. The heads of these figures are often considerably narrowed below the eyes.

The Waikato houses do not have the symbolism of the body of an ancestor. The lower ends of the bargeboards, instead of being curved as hands, always have a very large open spiral, with a small manaia at the terminals. At the apex of the bargeboards, instead of a single head with or without a figure above it, there is a tekoteko, consisting of two complete figures. Although Tainui carvers were prolific up to the early part of this century, their later work was not generally of a high standard. It is interesting to see, however, that some of the characteristics of older work were continued by the well-known Ngati Raukawa carvers, Patuaka and Hokowhitu McGregor. The latter used the squat, “dancing” figure to a startling degree in some of his houses. Patuaka was more restrained, his best works being the house at Kuku, near Manakau, and that at Te Arakura, near Feilding. The revival of an interest in carving, which was fostered by the late Te Puea Herangi, at Ngaruawahia, is bringing back a much improved standard of work.

Te Arawa:

The Arawa people of Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty have had a flourishing tradition of carving right up to the present day. The present carvers are in many cases the descendants of long lines of experts, with scarcely a gap for many generations. The vast amount of material available makes it difficult to summarise the characteristics of Arawa work. No more than the broadest outline is given here. One is still struck, like Dieffenbach, the German explorer who visited Rotorua in 1840, with the profusion of carvings to be seen there. There are detailed accounts of the leading Arawa carvers from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present day. In each generation of carvers it is known which pupils were taught by the leading experts of the previous generation. This makes it possible, more than in any other area, to study changes in designs and techniques from pre-European times to the present. Since about 1870 there have been some noticeable changes in Arawa work, possibly resulting from the tourist trade which caused the unfortunate carver to turn out work at high pressure. Generally speaking, since that time designs have tended to become over-formalised, with much repetition of identical figures – a thing almost foreign to earlier carvers. The older Arawa practice of superimposing secondary figures in all sorts of unexpected ways on the main figures fell out of use, probably because it took too long. Another interesting change took place in the treatment of the main figures on the poupou, or wall slabs, of houses. In older examples the head tapers inwards from the forehead to the jaw, leaving a space on each side of the head which is filled with manaia or full-faced figures. In later work the head occupies the full width of the slab – again a time-saving device. Surface patterns, too, have tended to formalisation. The rauponga pattern in early work has a varying number of ridges between the rows of pakati, but later three ridges became almost invariable. An interesting feature of the carved slabs inside houses of the early nineteenth century is their fairly close resemblance to Gisborne carvings. This may support a tradition that the fully carved house was introduced to the Arawa from Gisborne on the occasion of an intermarriage between the two districts.

Arawa full-faced figures are of four main types known as wheku, koruru, ruru, and the naturalistic figure. Less important types are known as roro and kuku, these being variants of wheku. As elsewhere, the naturalistic figure with tattooed head and buttocks was used by Te Arawa on stockade posts, the central posts in houses, and above the doors of pataka (storehouses). Those carved in the round, such as stockade posts, have a ridge running right round the top of the head and with a plain rounded protruberance above this ridge. This looks for all the world like a top hat, although it probably evolved as a method of preventing the head of the figure from splitting as was always likely if the figure were cut off immediately above the head. Naturalistic figures are found in unexpected places in houses carved in the mid-nineteenth century. The house “Whakaue”, carved by the famous Te Taupua, one of the carvers of Tamatekapua at Ohinemutu, has a large naturalistic head on the threshold immediately beneath each doorpost. In wall slabs carved by Wero, one of the greatest Arawa carvers, a naturalistic figure is quite often carved between the knees of the main figure. Wero also used such figures on the ridgepole and the pou-tahu.

The wheku is the most common type of figure, not only in Arawa work, but in most parts of the country. The head is flattened across the top. Above the eyes are two inclined planes joining just above the nose and sloping up diagonally to the outer edges of the forehead. These planes bring the brows in high relief above the eyes. In older Arawa examples of wheku there were commonly two large teeth, but the number varies considerably. The tongue is usually large and curved to one side and often has a hollow down the middle. Sometimes there are two tongues, one curved to each side.

The koruru is again a widespread type of figure, but is particularly common in Arawa carving. It generally has circular eyes, with the brows curving round the eyes to meet the upper jaw. The mouth is rounded and the top lip is drawn downwards to a point level with the lower lip. There is usually one large tooth in each side of the mouth. There are either two tongues curving away from each other, or one balanced tongue. If the koruru head is divided down the middle it resolves itself into two complete manaia heads.

The ruru is a typically Arawa figure, and is almost confined to that tribe. Ruru means “owl” and there is certainly an owlish look about this figure. The head is very similar to the koruru, but each of the upper corners is drawn out to a point, thus giving the owl-like appearance.

The general characteristics of the bodies of Arawa figures may be briefly summarised thus:

The arms quite frequently have a manaia replacing the forearm. The hands have three fingers with or without a thumb. The thumb, when present, is usually a backward prolongation of the first finger. Very commonly the hand is the head of a manaia, the beak of which represents the thumb. The knuckles were usually indicated on the fingers in older Arawa carving. The fingers are sometimes extraordinarily long. The legs are usually short, but in some examples, particularly from the Ngati Whakane section of Te Arawa, the legs are long and curved below the body, one leg being tucked in above the other.

Some of the smaller figures, such as those on pataka, are full of vitality. One type of wheku figure carved on the bargeboards of pataka has its head on one side, one hand up to the head and the other on the chest. This figure is called kuku.

The manaia of Te Arawa are extremely varied and are used with great abandon. In general there is a manaia which is the exact profile of the three main types, wheku, koruru, and ruru. In addition there are the ngutu-ta, where the tongue tends to merge into the curve of the lower jaw; ngutu-ihe, which has a prolonged upper lip; and torea, which is an extraordinarily attenuated manaia with a very long mouth and a long, almost eel-like body. Torea means “skinny” and is well applied to this elongated manaia. The torea is peculiarly Arawa. It was used by the Ngati Whakaue experts Te Taupua and Te Hauiti when they carved the Tamatekapua house about 1870. In this case the bodies of the manaia are long and looped, sometimes with no surface carving. The great carvers of the Ngati Tarawhai hapu in the mid-nineteenth century, Wero, Te Amo, and Tara, also used the torea on wall slabs. The long mouth runs up beside the head of the main figure, and the body of the torea is superimposed on the body of the main figure.

The surface patterns used by Arawa carvers cover the whole range. The rauponga pattern usually has balanced, diamond-shaped pakati, separated by three raumoa ridges. Older Ngati Tarawhai carvers did, however, occasionally use the three-sided pakati and a varying number of ridges. Wero and his contemporaries used rauponga in a wealth of curving spiral designs, usually “S”-shaped in the centre. Another type of spiral is found only in Arawa and Matatua work. This spiral begins in the centre, with two interlocked circles, and the spiral is built around them. Te Arawa were the greatest exponents of the taratara-a-kai pattern, widely used by them on storehouses. The unaunahi pattern was not so successfully used, tending to be stiff and angular.

The Arawa people have built a number of major carved houses in the past 30 years and some of the more recent ones show a return to the higher standards of a century ago.


The Matatua district comprises the Ngati Awa of Whakatane, the Tuhoe of the Urewera, and Whakatohea of Opotiki. Our knowledge of the art of this area is mainly derived from four major houses erected in the later nineteenth century. These were “Matatua”, now in the Otago Museum; “Hotunui”, carved by Matatua carvers for a Hauraki chief and now in the Auckland Museum; “Te Tokanga nui a Noho”, built at Te Kuiti by Matatua and Gisborne carvers; and “Te Whai a te Motu”, at Ruatahuna. A number of smaller houses have been built in the last 60 years, but these have not generally reached the standard of the older houses.

The main figures in Matatua carving are usually of the wheku type with the following characteristics:

The head occupies the full width of the slab, the breadth across the mouth being the same as that across the forehead. The eyes are fairly wide apart. There are numerous small teeth in both jaws, the teeth being shaped as rounded triangles. The tongue is large, long, and pointed, issuing from the middle of the mouth and the tip curved to one side. At the upper part of the tongue a semicircular area is flattened or hollowed out. The collar-bone is often indicated by a ridge between the shoulders, sometimes with a “V”-shaped dip in the middle. The arms have large domed shoulders and are normally depicted at the sides with the hands on the chest. The forearms are continued to the edge of the slab, overlapping the upper arm. The hands vary, but there are almost always three fingers and a thumb. The thumb is commonly a backward, upcurved extension of the first finger, or else a vertical extension of the back of the hand. The latter treatment seems to be the more recent. The legs are broad, of medium length, and slope inwards from a little above the feet. There are normally four or five stumpy toes.

The characteristic Matatua figure, the maraki-hau, has already been dealt with in the section on the elements of carving designs. A curious type of figure is often carved between the knees of the main figure. These secondary figures are very agile, with long, thin arms and legs and a long body. The arms are extended to the side with the hands pointing upwards, and the legs are wide apart, giving an impression of a lively Cossack dance.

The manaia of the Matatua area are distinctive, and can be analysed thus:

The head is circular, the eye being large and circular, or else missing altogether. The nose is often omitted and, if present, is a “U”-shaped loop above the mouth. The mouth, also, is usually “U” shaped with a single large tooth or no teeth at all. There is normally no tongue. The body is usually bold and decidedly curved, frequently “S” shaped, with a single “U”-shaped foot touching the back or the stomach. The arms may be missing, or, more commonly, only one is present. The arm is curved and the hand is simply “U” shaped, or provided with three fingers with or without a thumb. In some examples the arm is shaped exactly like the leg and is detached from the figure and placed in the reverse position to the leg. There is usually only one leg, an extension of the curved body.

The surface patterns in the Matatua district are much like those of Te Arawa, except that a three-sided pakati was used more often than the balanced pakati of the Arawa type. This is no doubt an influence from the Gisborne area.

Ngati Porou:

The Ngati Porou area runs from north of Gisborne to the East Cape district. Like the Arawa, the Ngati Porou tribe has had a continuous tradition of carving up to the present day. Their great leader, Sir Apirana Ngata, more than any other man, was responsible for the widespread revival of carving in the past 40 years. He was the force behind the School of Maori Arts established at Rotorua in the 1920s, and Ngati Porou carvers trained in that school have played a prominent part in the carving of most of the major carved houses built since that time. The outstanding Ngati Porou carved house of the nineteenth century is “Porourangi”, at Waiomatatini, carved by Tamati Ngakaho. Another fine house is “Hinetapora”, at Mangahanea, carved by Hone Tahu, Wi Tahata, Hoani Ngatoto, and others. Both houses have been restored in recent times. Since 1930 almost every sub-tribe of Ngati Porou has built a fine carved house, the leading carvers being Pine and Hoani Taiapa. It seems probable that the fully carved house, with interior wall slabs carved, originated on the East Coast. This must have been a relatively recent development, as the only example referred to by the earliest European explorers was one seen by Cook at Tolaga Bay.

The work of the leading Ngati Porou carvers is notable for its excellent finish, but it lacks the wealth of designs in some other areas. The carved houses have some unusual features. The amo, or main uprights in front of the house fit below the maihi, instead of lapping over them as is usual elsewhere. Sometimes there is a rounded projection on top of the amo, which exactly fits into the mouth of a large manaia head carved on the maihi immediately above the amo. At the end of the maihi there are three “fingers”, which, instead of being separated by a series of grooved chocks, have between them rows of small manaia heads. The houses have no central ridgepole support at the front of the verandah.

The main figures in Ngati Porou carving are of two main types, a characteristic type with rounded brow ridges and the wheku. The rounded head is normally used on the amo of a house, often with one brow ridge higher than the other to fit into the oblique upper end of the amo. In other examples the head is turned obliquely to the body. This type of figure has the following characteristics:

The ridges above the brows are noticeably curved and sometimes continue downwards past the eyes to meet the upper jaws. In the latter case there is usually a straplike process running diagonally upwards from the eye to the outer side of the head. Above the junction of the brow ridges there is a small knob from which an inverted “V” or inverted “Y” runs down across the top of the nose to the eyes. The eyes are round. The mouth is wide and open, usually with many small teeth. The tongue is treated in several ways, most of which are unusual. It may be a small, shallow “V” inside the mouth; sometimes it is shaped like a flattened “X”; it may be a thin, forked tongue coming out the side of the mouth, or a long, curved ribbon beginning at one side of the mouth and coming out at the lower part of the other side of the mouth. Finally, there may be a simple balanced tongue, wide at the root and coming down to the chin. The body is usually long. The shoulders are small and the upper arm is usually a good deal longer than the forearm. The hands are small with naturalistic fingers showing the knuckles. There are three or four fingers and a thumb, usually quite long, rising at an acute angle to the first finger. The legs are of medium length, fairly wide apart, with three or five toes arranged in a series of loops.

The Ngati Porou treatment of the wheku figure is summarised thus:

The head is wide across the forehead and narrower across the mouth. In Tamati Ngakaho's work the space between the brow ridges and the upper jaw on each side of the nose is cut down to the same plane as the background of the slab, and the eyes, elliptical in shape, are placed in this plane. The mouth is large, usually with one large tooth on each side, and the tongue is wide rooted and short, coming to a point at the chin. The body is shorter than in the figures described above but otherwise the general characteristics are the same. A variant style has a curved body which continues downwards to form one leg.

The surface carving on Ngati Porou figures is usually rauponga, which covers the whole figure. The pakati are deep and three-sided or chevron-shaped. There are three ridges between the rows of pakati. Spirals of rauponga may begin with an “S” in the centre, or may be interlocked. A surprisingly common feature is a single spiral seen in some of the carvings of such eminent experts as Tamati Ngakaho and Hoani Ngatoto.

The Whanau a Apanui tribe are the neighbours of Ngati Porou in the Cape Runaway district, the tribal centre being Te Kaha. We have few samples of Apanui carving, but amongst them is the splendid, but incomplete, pataka in the Auckland Museum, the finest in existence. Although there are some features in common with Ngati Porou work, there is also a strong Arawa influence. The pataka from Te Kaha exhibits the same designs as those on Arawa pataka and the surface decoration is taratara a kai. So far as is known, pataka of this type did not occur in the Ngati Porou area.

A feature of Apanui carving is a narrow band of high-relief carving running down the centre of the body from the chin of a principal figure. This is known as taowaru, a name applied by Te Arawa to a series of figures standing one above the other as seen on the doorposts of a house.

Kahungunu Area:

This name covers the area from Gisborne to the region of Napier. From this area come the two oldest carved houses in New Zealand, “Te Hau ki Turanga”, now in the Dominion Museum, and the interesting old house which has recently been rebuilt at Whakato, a few miles south of Gisborne. Both houses were built in the first half of the nineteenth century, the principal carver being Raharuhi Rukupo of the Rongowhakaata tribe. Rukupo must be ranked as the greatest of the nineteenth-century carvers, and “Te Hau ki Turanga” as the finest carved house in existence. The outstanding feature of the Gisborne area is the very high-relief work, reaching about 15 in. in “Te Hau ki Turanga”. The finish is superb, the surface work being deep and clean cut, with bold, sweeping spirals.

The standard figure on the main slabs is a type of wheku, described briefly:

The brows are in very high relief, sweeping upwards to the corners of the slab, the head is broad across the forehead and tapers in noticeably towards the mouth. The elliptical eyes are wide apart. The knob in the centre of the eye has a spiral carved on it. The mouth is wide, with a number of rounded teeth. The lower jaw is cut away in much lower relief than the upper jaw. The tongue is wide and shortish, curving to one side and coming to a point. The centre of the tongue is hollowed out and in the middle is a raised circle containing a shell eye, or decorated with a spiral. On each cheek there is either a raised spiral or a curious raised feature which looks like a short peg thrust through a loop. It is interesting to note that this latter feature seems to occur only on male figures, but that the raised spiral may be on male or female figures. The shoulders are large, circular, and domed. The upper arms are short. The hands have long, curving, pointed fingers with a thumb formed by a backward extension of the first finger. In “Te Hau ki Turanga” there are always three fingers and a thumb, but four fingers and a thumb sometimes occur in Gisborne work. In a number of figures we see the phenomenon already observed in Taranaki carvings – one arm up to the side of the face, with the hand issuing through the mouth. The body is broad with the legs wide apart. The hips are bold, rounded, and domed, and the legs are very short – in fact the foot is often placed almost immediately below the domed hips. There are usually four stubby toes. A most unusual feature in these figures is the presence of small breasts on the female figures. In one or two cases a child is being suckled. Although the Maori carver often carved the sex organs, it is rare for the breasts to be present. On each side of the head and below the arms there are beautifully executed manaia in fairly high relief, sometimes pierced right through the slab. There is a small complete figure between the legs.

In addition to the wheku, the Gisborne carvers used another figure with a rounded head. In this type the brow-ridges curve over and down beside the eyes and the tongue is usually wide, roughly heart shaped, and protruding over the chin. The head may be erect or oblique. In the latter case one hand is placed on the chest and the other is raised to the side of the head. One leg is straight down and the other curves under the body, with a profile foot pointing upwards. In other respects these figures resemble the wheku type described above.

The naturalistic figure is well executed throughout the Kahungunu area. The tattooing is very fine and a well-carved top-knot is usually shown on the head. In these figures the fingers are long and naturalistic, with the knuckles shown. The thumb curves upwards from the first finger; in some Hawke's Bay examples the thumb curves down again to touch the first finger.

The Kahungunu manaia is variable, but the best carvers used one with a circular head, a large eye, and an open mouth with a slight projection on the top lip, pointing back to the eye. This may represent the nose which is otherwise not shown. There is one large tooth and a straplike tongue. In a series of manaia, the arm of one manaia may be the mouth of another.

The surface work is of the highest quality. The main figures are decorated with bold, deep rauponga or unaunahi. The rauponga has deep, three-sided, or chevron pakati flanked by three ridges. The rauponga spirals interlock in the centre and are usually without the whakarare found in Arawa work. In the unaunahi pattern there are three elements joined at the base and curving to one side. This pattern reaches its highest perfection in the “Hau ki Turanga” house. Another good example appears on a door lintel from an old house which formerly stood at Te Hauke, near Hastings. The clever use of surface patterns on the bodies of the figures characterises Gisborne work. A judicious use of plain areas prevents the outlines of the figure from becoming blurred or “overdressed”.

Tuwharetoa Area:

This area includes the tribal domains of the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe round Lake Taupo and extends down the Rangitikei River. Although Ngati Tuwharetoa are related to Te Arawa, their style of carving is quite distinctive. The two outstanding carved buildings of this style are both storehouses built in the 1850s. One was begun by Iwikau Te Heuheu at Pukawa, Lake Taupo, in 1854 and opened in 1856. It was named “Hinana ki uta Hinana ki tai”. The paepae, or outer threshold, is now in the Canterbury Museum, and some of the other carvings are at Waihi, Tokaanu. The other pataka, “Nuku-tewhatewha”, was built for Wi Tako at Petone in 1856. It is now in the possession of the Beetham family, of Brancepeth, Masterton. According to Elsdon Best, the carvers were from Ngati Porou, but Ngati Tuwharetoa claim that it was carved by their tribal experts, Patatai Te Heuheu (Te Heuheu Tu Kino IV) and Taringa. There could be no doubt, on stylistic grounds, that the carving is Tuwharetoa. The treatment of the manaia, the large open spirals and the surface patterns all support this. The work is quite different from the Ngati Porou style.

Ngati Tuwharetoa used the naturalistic figure in much the same way as other tribes, and also both wheku and koruru styles. In the last two types the eyes are generally round, and in later work are often bulbous, rounded domes. The general characteristics are:

The mouth characteristically has the top lip drawn down in the centre, sometimes reaching the chin. In other cases the bottom lip is drawn up to meet the lowest point of the upper lip, thus dividing the mouth into two parts. There are usually several teeth. The tongue is often missing or is simply a thin strip inside the mouth. When the tongue protrudes it is long and curved. The hands in Tuwharetoa figures are interesting. Although the normal hand with three fingers and a thumb occurs quite frequently, other combinations are equally frequent. In some cases there are four fingers and no thumb and in others there are five fingers. In the latter case all five fingers may be parallel and of equal size, or the thumb may be differentiated. It may be thought that this five-fingered hand is modern, but it appears in Taupo carvings illustrated by Angas in the 1840s and in a number of Tuwharetoa carvings belonging to the fifties. In the same piece of carving the number of fingers may vary. The legs on Tuwharetoa figures vary in length but are commonly “knock kneed”.

An intriguing habit of Tuwharetoa carvers was to carve, below a principal figure, an upside-down figure, or head. In some cases only the upper part of a head is shown in this upside-down position. The reversed figure was illustrated by Angas and occurs in carvings of all periods since his time.

The characteristic manaia of Tuwharetoa has a rounded head with a circular eye set in an elliptical or crescent-shaped plane. The nose is large and often extraordinarily long, with parallel sides. The mouth is closed, often circular or oval, with a few large teeth. The tongue, when present, is long, thin, and curved back below the jaw. Either the upper jaw or the lower jaw may be curved round and up inside the mouth. The open spiral, takarangi or pitau, in Tuwharetoa work differs from those in most other districts. Instead of plain ridges the spirals comprise flat volutes decorated with three parallel ridges. These spirals appear on the two pataka already mentioned on a pare, or door lintel, clearly of Tuwharetoa origin, shown by Phillipps (Carved Maori Houses of Western and Northern Areas of New Zealand, 1955, p. 111), the spirals with an “S” in the centre. The surface work is bold, deeply cut rauponga, usually with balanced pakati. On the lower edge of the paepae of the pataka “Hinana” there is an interesting surface pattern unique in Maori work, but very similar to Mangaian surface patterns.

Wanganui Area:

Perhaps because it was encouraged by the early missionary, the Rev. Richard Taylor, instead of being treated as a heathen practice, the art of carving suffered no great setback in the Wanganui district after European settlement. Taylor had carved ornaments on his mission house, some of which still survive in the Wanganui Museum. The main carvers of the nineteenth century were Kawana Moraro, his son, Utiku Mohuia, and his pupil, Hori Pukehika, and Hawera Rehe, Ture, and Kopeke. Wanganui carved houses have some unusual characteristics. The doorway is always in the centre of the front wall, a characteristic shared only with some Ngati Raukawa houses. There is always a central ridgepole support in front of the house. The maihi are usually adorned with bulky, high-relief figures interspersed with low-relief figures. The amo are sometimes insignificant and carved in low relief. The door lintels are quite unorthodox, with high-relief figures, either cut out in full relief or interspersed with surface patterns. The only conventional door lintel in the district is in the house “Te Paku-o-te-rangi”, at Putiki, and this one probably came from the Bay of Plenty.

The main figures are usually wheku, but many have high rounded foreheads. The heads often look somewhat compressed between the brows and the mouth. The general characteristics are thus:

The eyes are either small and elliptical or large and bulbous with painted eyeballs. The tongue is wide-rooted, generally long and not pointed. There are usually two large, pointed teeth in the corner of the mouth and there may, in addition, be numerous very small teeth. The hands are distinctive in that the thumb is rarely treated differently from the fingers. Like the Tuwharetoa, the Wanganui carvers used a hand with five fingers, less frequently four, and sometimes three. The three-fingered hand usually appears only on the doorway. Like the Tuwharetoa, the same piece of carving may have a different number of fingers in different places.

The profile figures are usually of a type called kaeaea, with a rounded head, small elliptical eyes, and rounded mouth. The tongue is usually very thin and very long. There is usually one pointed tooth, but in some cases there may be three or four. These figures are used on the maihi, sometimes covering the entire plank. They also occur on some door lintels and on slabs below the windows. Surface patterns are used much more than elsewhere. Some Wanganui carvers use various rauponga designs to fill in quite large spaces between relief figures. Rauponga is by far the most common surface pattern. The pakati are either balanced, sometimes almost square, or chevron-shaped, the latter style being brown as Tuarakuri, or dog's back, because this type of pakati appears somewhat like the arrangement of the hairs along the backbone of a dog. Both balanced and chevron pakati are found on the same piece of carving. The rauru spiral is frequently used, even in some places, such as door lintels, where takarangi would normally be used. The rauru usually begins in the centre with an “S” formed by the three raumoa ridges. Sometimes, however, the “S” is formed by the strip of pakati, and occasionally the spirals are interlocked. The use of shallow takarangi spirals as surface carving on the maihi is an unusual feature of the house “Whare-whiti”, now in the Wanganui Museum. The pakura pattern is used on Wanganui carvings. An exceptional feature is the use of pakati instead of parallel crescent-shaped grooves between the connected spirals. In this pattern the spirals interlock at the centre. In the house “Te Paku o te Rangi”, at Putiki, there is a beautifully carved pou-toko-manawa with an extremely complex arrangement of figures. The surface work on these figures is simple parallel grooving without pakati.

Next Part: Other Areas

The Story




This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.

Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand