Exhibition a heartfelt tribute to Te Kooti

Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength.

Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength.

TE WEPU: A cotton replica of Te Kooti’s flag, given to Peter Moeau, a descendant of the military strategist, artist and Ringatu faith founder, features in the exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum, Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength. In the background is Henare Tahuri’s painting Te Tohu. Pictures by Liam Clayton
Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength tribute exhibition.
Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength tribute exhibition.
Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength tribute exhibition.
Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength tribute exhibition.

Twelve artists’ work make up Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength, an exhibition that centres on Ringatu faith founder, military strategist and artist Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki.

At a public talk at Tairawhiti Museum this week, some of the artists discussed Te Kooti’s legacies.

Among them are the meeting houses Te Kooti commissioned on four marae, said artist Haare Williams. These are Whakahau at Rangatira Marae in Te Karaka, Rongopai at Rongopai Marae in Waituhi, Te Aroha at Tapu-i-hikitia Marae in Puha, and Te Ngawari at Mangatu Marae.

The names translate respectively to “to spread”, “the word of the gospel”, “love” and “in peace”, said Williams.

Te Kooti wanted to open the whare to the people because they had been expelled from their homeland.

“These marae still exist. The important thing in these marae is the artwork. These houses are part of the message of goodwill.”

Rongopai’s message is of love and freedom so the whole house was painted, but others thought the artwork was graffiti and painted over it, said Williams.

The artwork has since been restored. Paintings of horses racing, people playing cricket, and flying birds feature in the paintings.

“Paint became a new medium in the 1880s. Elders said it was too much of a departure from tradition but this was a new age. In the old days carving was governed by karakia.”

The human figure was carved in wood and once finished it was rubbed with oil mixed with red clay.

“The colour was considered tapu and put on carvings to preserve the tapu.”

One of Te Kooti’s aims was to lessen the tapu.

“Rather than more carving he changed to painting and added flowers, birds; he used yellow, blue and red paint to lessen the notion of tapu and open it to the people.

“You see now when artists use the style, they’re used in a new korero, a new conversation.”

Te Kooti descendant Anne McGuire of Tolaga Bay said the paintings at Whangara Marae carried on Te Kooti’s legacy.

“They painted royals, Jesus, exotic trees and local tipuna. These were done to put off Crown agents from taking their land. By painting the royal family they were saying, ‘we are loyal to the Crown’. Exotic trees said they were multicultural. There is only one native tree — the kaka beak — on the side wall to show they had Maori whakapapa.”

By painting portraits of the royal family, the spirits of those people were trapped in the painting.

Maori people’s relationship with the Creator is through whakapapa, said Williams.

“It tells us Maori have a continuous link through whakapapa. Our connection with Creation goes back to Io (supreme being).”

Te Karaka Area School art teacher Henare Tahuri’s painting Te Tohu features Te Kooti on the left with upraised hand.

The bowler-hatted figure’s other hand extends behind the Cross motif to the manaia-like form that represents the Archangel Gabriel.

This signifies half of Te Kooti was in the spiritual world, said Tahuri. Gabriel is said to have come to Te Kooti in a vision while he was imprisoned and ill.

Te Karaka Area School teacher Solomon Blake said Maori had long been anaesthetised.

“You only have to look at the model of education. And we know we were anaesthetised.”

“We’re going to put Te Kooti in the curriculum right away,” said Tahuri.

“There has been a little bit of it. Now there’s going to be a lot of it.”

The exhibition features a replica of Te Kooti’s flag, Te Wepu (The Whip).

Maori were introduced to flags by Europeans, and they quickly became part of Maori culture as symbols of mana and to show allegiances, says online encyclopedia, Te Ara.

The Cross is a symbol of Te Hahi, the Ringatu church, said the replica flag’s owner and Te Kooti descendant, Peter Moeau. The maunga, mountain, is considered a symbol of the whenua that was lost.

Pierced with an arrow with tears falling from it, the heart represents the people, their loss and tumult, while the moon and the star iconography references the Old Testament and the star of David, he said.

“As with anything, symbolism takes on different meanings.”

  • Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength, a tribute exhibition to Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Tairawhiti Museum until September 16.

Twelve artists’ work make up Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength, an exhibition that centres on Ringatu faith founder, military strategist and artist Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki.

At a public talk at Tairawhiti Museum this week, some of the artists discussed Te Kooti’s legacies.

Among them are the meeting houses Te Kooti commissioned on four marae, said artist Haare Williams. These are Whakahau at Rangatira Marae in Te Karaka, Rongopai at Rongopai Marae in Waituhi, Te Aroha at Tapu-i-hikitia Marae in Puha, and Te Ngawari at Mangatu Marae.

The names translate respectively to “to spread”, “the word of the gospel”, “love” and “in peace”, said Williams.

Te Kooti wanted to open the whare to the people because they had been expelled from their homeland.

“These marae still exist. The important thing in these marae is the artwork. These houses are part of the message of goodwill.”

Rongopai’s message is of love and freedom so the whole house was painted, but others thought the artwork was graffiti and painted over it, said Williams.

The artwork has since been restored. Paintings of horses racing, people playing cricket, and flying birds feature in the paintings.

“Paint became a new medium in the 1880s. Elders said it was too much of a departure from tradition but this was a new age. In the old days carving was governed by karakia.”

The human figure was carved in wood and once finished it was rubbed with oil mixed with red clay.

“The colour was considered tapu and put on carvings to preserve the tapu.”

One of Te Kooti’s aims was to lessen the tapu.

“Rather than more carving he changed to painting and added flowers, birds; he used yellow, blue and red paint to lessen the notion of tapu and open it to the people.

“You see now when artists use the style, they’re used in a new korero, a new conversation.”

Te Kooti descendant Anne McGuire of Tolaga Bay said the paintings at Whangara Marae carried on Te Kooti’s legacy.

“They painted royals, Jesus, exotic trees and local tipuna. These were done to put off Crown agents from taking their land. By painting the royal family they were saying, ‘we are loyal to the Crown’. Exotic trees said they were multicultural. There is only one native tree — the kaka beak — on the side wall to show they had Maori whakapapa.”

By painting portraits of the royal family, the spirits of those people were trapped in the painting.

Maori people’s relationship with the Creator is through whakapapa, said Williams.

“It tells us Maori have a continuous link through whakapapa. Our connection with Creation goes back to Io (supreme being).”

Te Karaka Area School art teacher Henare Tahuri’s painting Te Tohu features Te Kooti on the left with upraised hand.

The bowler-hatted figure’s other hand extends behind the Cross motif to the manaia-like form that represents the Archangel Gabriel.

This signifies half of Te Kooti was in the spiritual world, said Tahuri. Gabriel is said to have come to Te Kooti in a vision while he was imprisoned and ill.

Te Karaka Area School teacher Solomon Blake said Maori had long been anaesthetised.

“You only have to look at the model of education. And we know we were anaesthetised.”

“We’re going to put Te Kooti in the curriculum right away,” said Tahuri.

“There has been a little bit of it. Now there’s going to be a lot of it.”

The exhibition features a replica of Te Kooti’s flag, Te Wepu (The Whip).

Maori were introduced to flags by Europeans, and they quickly became part of Maori culture as symbols of mana and to show allegiances, says online encyclopedia, Te Ara.

The Cross is a symbol of Te Hahi, the Ringatu church, said the replica flag’s owner and Te Kooti descendant, Peter Moeau. The maunga, mountain, is considered a symbol of the whenua that was lost.

Pierced with an arrow with tears falling from it, the heart represents the people, their loss and tumult, while the moon and the star iconography references the Old Testament and the star of David, he said.

“As with anything, symbolism takes on different meanings.”

  • Pouwhare: A Pillar of Strength, a tribute exhibition to Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Tairawhiti Museum until September 16.
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