Story: Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation

Tohunga under tapu

Tohunga under tapu

Tapu (spiritual restriction) was important in all areas of Māori society. Tohunga (priests) oversaw customs that related to tapu and the environment, and were tapu themselves. In this watercolour by Horatio Robley, painted around 1863, a tohunga is being fed by a child. Some people, usually tohunga or chiefs, were so tapu that they needed others to feed them, as food was believed to pollute their tapu.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: A-080-003
Watercolour by Horatio Gordon Robley

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation - Key concepts', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/artwork/11597/tohunga-under-tapu (accessed 27 October 2021)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 24 Sep 2007