Handling Taonga in the Whare Wānanga
The remarkable whakairo waharoa carved by the late master carver George Edwards required periodic restoration and maintenance last week at Lincoln University. The wānanga has partnered with us to ensure their taonga goes through this process in a culturally sound way and ultimately to preserve the artistry of George Edwards.
The reasons for dismantling this waharoa are for Lincoln University to proceed with their building redevelopments. It also demonstrates the importance of handling, maintenance, and restoration of Māori taonga, and the mana and wairua that is embedded in it. This particular waharoa was carved to mark the threshold of Te Whare Wānaka o Aoraki and is called Te Paepae Tapu a Rākaihautū (The Sacred Threshold of Rākaihautū). It stands to signify the Māori acceptance of Lincoln University as a suitable whare wānanga, to welcome young Māori, other students, and visitors to the University. The tekoteko at the top of the waharoa is Tū Te Rakihaunoa, the deity of Waitaha traditions and the first Māori to settle in the South Island. The koruru depicts the leading ancestor, Rākaihautū who brought the Waitaha traditions and lineages to the South Island. The name of the koruru is Te Waha Korero o Rākaihautū (The Mouthpiece of Rākaihautū) reminding us of the traditions and protocols of Waitaha people. Waitaha traditions record the Rākaihautū arrived from the Universe in his celestial waka named Uruao, a star constellation and means to enter Te Ao Māori. This korero is multilayered and multifaceted and can be delved into further on the Lincoln University site.
In an interview with George Edwards, he emphasised the that “the best way to see where you’re going, is if you can understand the story of creation, where Tāne lifted his father Ranginui up into the sky, he had to stand on his shoulders, and put his feet up to push him up”. This couldn’t be any more true when it comes to entering any whare wānanga, that in a sense, we navigate our own journey into education, on our own waka, much like Rākaihautū. It is important that these korero are passed down, to remind Rangatahi of the significance that Māori creation narratives have towards our Tūrangawaewae. And as taonga such as this travels through the web of whakapapa, its mana subsequently increases. Therefore, it was important for us to ensure the proper karakia was recited to lift the tapu so that its mana can be retained. We’re blessed to have been the team asked to handle this whakairo, it allows us to be present with master artistry up close and personal, and for us to reflect on our own whakairo mahi and the ways in which we can innovate the craft.
Nāku noa nei,
George Edwards Audio: https://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Maori/Art/Carving/GeorgeEdwards/GeorgeEdwards.mp3
First Image: Moki a Te Ruahikihiki with Waikato style spirals
Second Image: Manaia Kahukura and ancestor Tuahiri of Kāi Tahu