Thursday, 21 June 2012

Rebecca's Report

What is the Purpose of the Tukutuku panels in Maori Art?

The purpose of Maori art is to represent ancestors and to tell stories.  Maori had no written language so they recorded all their history in their artworks.  Stories were shared and passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth, people telling their stories to their children.  The only way to capture these stories in a permanent way was as carvings or other artworks.  Every artwork in the Wharenui has a purpose and tells its own story.

    This is a Pou or carving inside a Whare.  It represents one of the ancestors important to this Whare.

The wharenui is an artwork itself.  Each Wharenui represents an ancestor.  Every Wharenui is named after an important Rangatira (chief) of the tribe.  The Whare is built as the body of the ancestor.  The Maihi, carved panels at the front of the Wharenui are the arms of the ancestor, open and welcoming visitors.  The Tahuhu is the ridge pole of the building which represents the backbone of the ancestor.  Inside the Wharenui, down the sides of each wall are carved posts or Poupou.  Each of these, represent another of the important ancestors of the tribe.  Each of the Poupou has their own stories.  Each part of the Wharenui has hours of mahi put into it; each part is made by a skilled artist or team of artists.  


In this picture you can see the arms of the Wharenui (Maihi) open wide to welcome visitors.

One of the main Maori art forms in the Wharenui is the Tukutuku panels.  Tukutuku panels are made out of vertical stakes coloured with dye.  The stakes are made of ToiToi and are bound together with a native grass called Kiekie.  The patterns of the tukutuku are woven onto the panels.  The dye used to colour the Kiekie is made out of harekeke and other plants.  For example Poroporo makes the colour Waiporoporo or purple.  Sometimes to make the colour brown they used special types of mud.

This pattern is known as Poutama.  It represents Tane’s journey through the heavens in search of the three baskets of knowledge.  This pattern in the Wharenui reminds people that it is still important to seek knowledge and to continue to learn.

Tukutuku panels are a traditional art form used to tell the story of a tribe’s whakapapa or genealogy.  People can actually read these panels and understand the stories they tell in the same way that we can understand the words in books.  Most of the stories in the Wharenui talk about the history of the Iwi and the important ancestors of the tribe.

   This example of Poutama is from Ngati Porou tells the story of that tribe from the East Coast of the North Island      

  The Wharenui is a beautiful place with all the Maori artworks inside and gorgeous Maihi and Tekoteko outside.  It represents the work of a team of people working together to make their Whare a wonderful place.  The Wharenui shows a tribes Mana and pride in themselves and their history.    


  1. What and amazing report Rebecca. Loving your work. Nicola

  2. Rebecca, I am so proud of the work that you put into writing this report. I know how much effort you have been putting into this on a daily basis so well done. You deserve a hot chocolate. Jen

  3. Rebecca, this report blew my mind. Troy

  4. Very good,Rebecca l like it - John S :-)

  5. Hi Becky, this is such an amazing report. Great job! Katherine

  6. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.