This 2003 painting of Pirongia mountain by Mike Judge conveys its cultural significance and its imposing presence in the Waikato landscape. The moko (facial tattoo) on the skyward face is based on that of King Tāwhiao, the second Māori king, emphasising his links with the mountain. Living in exile to the south in the late 19th century, he expressed his longing to return to Waikato in this waiata.
Ka mātakitaki iho au ki te riu o Waikato
Anō nei he kapo kau ake māku
Ki te kapu o taku ringa
Ka whakamiri noa i tōna aratau
E tia nei he tupu kua hou
Kia hiwa ake ki te tihi o Pirongia
Inā he toronga whakaruruhau mōna
Ki tōku tauāwhiritanga
Anā! Te ngoto o tōna ngāwhā i ōna uma kīhai i ārikarika
A Maungatautari, a Maungakawa
Ōku puke maunga, ngā taonga tuku iho.
Hoki ake nei au ki tōku awa koiora me ōna pikonga
He kura tangihia o te mātāmuri
E whakawhiti atu ai i te kōpū mānia o Kirikiriroa
Me ōna māra kai, te ngāwhā whakatupu ake o te whenua mōmona
Hei kawe ki Ngāruawāhia, te huinga o te tangata
Atā, te pae haumako hei okiokinga mō taku upoko
Hei tirohanga atu mā raro i ngā hūhā o Taupiri
Kei reira rā, kei te ōrokohanganga o te tangata
Wāhia te tūngaroa o te whare, te whakaputanga mō te Kīngi.
I look down on the valley of Waikato
As though to hold it in the hollow of my hand
And caress its beauty
Like some tender verdant thing
I reach out from the top of Pirongia
As though to cover and protect its substance with my own
See, how it bursts through, the full bosoms of Maungatautari and Maungakawa
Hills of my inheritance
The river of life, each curve more beautiful than the last,
Across the smooth belly of Kirikiriroa
Its gardens bursting with the fullness of good things.
Towards the meeting place at Ngāruawahia
There on the fertile mound I would rest my head and look through the thighs of Taupiri
There at the place of all creation
Let the King come forth.
(quoted in 'Daily debates.' New Zealand Parliament, 23 September 2008, last accessed 15 October 2021).
Image courtesy of Mike Judge and Pirongia School
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Artwork by Mike Judge
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