Waharoa tells a story

Video: Robyn Janes/MediaFix

A distinctive landmark in Mārahau greets visitors approaching from the South—a carved waharoa (entranceway). It tells the story of migration of the tūpuna (ancestors) of the people who live here today as tangata whenua in Te Tauihu (Top of the South Island). 

In the video above, Renee Thomas from Ngāti Rārua shares the kōrero of the waharoa.

In the 1820s a group of whānau and hapū (families) from Kawhia and Taranaki made the courageous decision to leave the North Island in search of their needs for survival, land, water and food resources.

From Kawhia came the Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Kōata and Ngāti Toa Rangatira people from the Tainui waka.

From Taranaki came the Ngāti Tama and Te Ātiawa people from the Tokomaru waka.

Their journey south is visible on the waharoa as you enter the park from Mārahau – with the people in the waka and the maunga (mountains) showing where they came from.

A blend of war and peace is represented in the carvings with Rongo ma tane, on the left, the atua (deity) of peace and cultivated food. Mārahau was the food basket of the tupuna, with an abun­dance of food resources available. There are many recorded battle sites in the area as it was highly contested as a valuable resource. The con­flicts here are represented by Tumatauenga, the atua of war, on the right.

Underneath Rongo ma tane are two figures, these signify the Motueka and Riuwaka riv­ers, the two rivers that must be crossed to get to Mārahau.

Underneath Tumatauenga are carvings that depict the intricate caves that are under Pikikirunga (Tākaka Hill) – these cave networks extend from the Riuwaka Resurgence right through to Tākaka and Waikoropupū Springs.

The figure in the middle at the top is repre­sentative of Turangaapeke—a tupuna of both Ngāti Rārua and Te Ātiawa whānau in Motueka. This is also the name of the Whare nui at Te Āwhina Marae.

Visitors who exit from the park to Mārahau will see carvings on the other side of the waharoa, depicting the natural elements that affect everything in this special place known as Mārahau (windy garden).

Each morning Tama nui te Ra rises in the East, in the centre, Te Ao are depicted. On the right is Tawhirimatea (atua of the winds and storms) who brings the afternoon wind in the summer months. On the left side is Tāne Mahuta (atua of the forest), a reminder of where you have been, or that you may be about to enter his domain.

On the right side is Haumietiketike (atua of uncultivated plants).  Large areas of the Mārahau valley and what is now national park were once covered in forest.

As well as a large cultivated area, this would have been a great kai (food) gathering area. The tuangi (cockle) beds were abundant, the sea teeming with life and the forests and valleys full of birds.

At the very bottom, left and right are two faces – the two sides of Papa tu a nuku (Mother Earth’s) face reminding us to be mindful of where we step and to tread lightly as we walk over her, so future generations can enjoy these taonga (treasures), like the national park, which are in our care as kaitiaki (guardians) for today.

The carving was commissioned by Department of Conservation as part of a series of installations to acknowledge the cultural history of the national park, and carved by master carver Mark Davis from Nelson. The timber is tōtara from the West Coast.

Project Janszoon has worked with mana whenua iwi and DOC to develop signage and a video about the waharoa. This narrative is a collab­oration between Manawhenua Iwi, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama and Te Ātiawa, and the Department of Conservation.



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