Story: Whakairo – Māori carving

Te Hau-ki-Tūranga meeting house

Te Hau-ki-Tūranga whare whakairo (carved house) was built in the early 1840s at Ōrākaiapu pā, near Gisborne. The head carver was Raharuhi Rukupō, and the house was dedicated to his elder brother, Rongowhakaata chief Tāmati Wāka Māngere. Steel tools were used in carving it, and this is the oldest surviving whare whakairo (carved house) made in this way. In 1867 it was confiscated by Native Minister J. C. Richmond, and its carvings were taken to Wellington. It was used as a meeting place by the Philosophical Society. In the 1930s it was reconstructed at the Dominion Museum, under the direction of Āpirana Ngata. Later, the Waitangi Tribunal found that the house had been wrongfully removed. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa agreed to return it to the people of Rongowhakaata by 2017. 

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How to cite this page:

Brett Graham, 'Whakairo – Māori carving - Carving, 19th century', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 May 2022)

Story by Brett Graham, published 22 Oct 2014