HINEMATIORO REVISITED

HINEMATIORO COMES HOME: A significant poupou, a wall panel carved to represent paramount chieftainess of Tairawhiti, Hinematioro, who in 1769 gifted the taonga to explorer James Cook, botanist Joseph Banks or Ra’iatean navigator and arioi Tupaia, has been loaned by the Museum of the University of Tubingen and is now part of the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition at Tairawhiti museum. Picture supplied
SAVED: In 2012, one of the East Coast's significant taonga, the Hinematioro poupou, was transported in a fire, water and crash-proof box from Auckland Museum to Tairawhiti Museum for the Te Ara o Kopu: Transit of Venus exhibition. Picture by David Thomas

Alive with design detail the Hinematioro poupou (carved panel) is a vivid addition to the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition at Tairawhiti museum.

Said to be known for her kindness, hospitality and wise decisions, Hinematioro spent most of her life in the Uawa-Whangara district among the hapu Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ngati Konohi. The paramount East Coast chieftainess was 16 or 17 when she met explorer James Cook at Anaura Bay and gifted him, or gentleman botanist Joseph Banks, or Ra’iatean navigator and arioi Tupaia, the poupou. The high-born young woman of influence also facilitated the re-supply of Cook’s ship Endeavour with fresh water and food.

The Hinematioro poupou is now on loan from the University of Tubingen, Germany to the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition.

“The poupou that now resides in Tubingen was collected on Pourewa Island, just south of Uawa, where an impressive wharenui (large house) was being built for Hinematioro, a young chieftain descended from Hauiti’s most senior lines, at the time of the Endeavour’s visit,” say scholar Wayne Ngata, anthropologist Billie Lythberg and social anthropologist Amiria Salmond in a paper called Toi Hauiti and Hinematioro: a Maori ancestor in a German castle.

Sculptor/academic Robert Jahnke has identified the carving style of the poupou as exemplifying that of the Te Rawheoro school at Uawa, say the paper’s authors.

“One of the most distinctive stylistic features associated with Te Rawheoro is the denticulate notching called taratara-a-kae . . . Jahnke indeed asserts that Te Rawheoro was responsible for introducing much of ‘the essential visual vocabulary’ that would later feature in carving styles throughout the Bay of Plenty and along the East Coast.”

The Hinematioro wall panel is rectangular in form but the compact figure is stylistically animated with notched patterns in the large slanted eyes, protruding tongue, notched whorls that comprise the shoulders and chest; truncated legs, and the torso of the smaller figure between her legs. Spirals also feature in the main figure’s hands over her mid-section. Open spirals fill the space around her head.

Hinematioro in Germany

The poupou was donated to the University in 1937 by Emma von Luschan, daughter of geographer Ferdinand von Hochstetter, but was found to be in a state of considerable degradation, write Ngata, Lythberg and Salmond.

“The top part of the panel had been cut down, removing parts of the slanted eyes of the main ancestral figure. A rough restoration had been carried out in 1977 . . . The sawn-out voids were patched with pieces of local conifer wood, and the carving was covered with a purple-red paint.

“Conservator Anke Scharrahs’ ‘re-restoration’ replaced the wooden patches with aged totara wood sourced from Aotearoa New Zealand to match the poupou’s original timber. Scharrahs used (John Frederick) Miller’s sketch as a guide to reinstate the fine whakairo on the new totara patches, and she carefully recreated the original red pigment applied to the poupou, discovered in the form of a residue beneath its coat of purple-red and a previous layer of black.”

Pacific anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond has speculated local chiefs presented the poupou as a gift to Banks, “although carvings embodied ancestors and this house must have been highly tapu”, note the co-writers of Toi Hauiti and Hinematioro.

A scenario in which the poupou was presented instead to Tupaia is considered more likely.

“The Tahitian’s status and genealogical connections would have demanded acknowledgement from Hauiti’s people in the form of ceremonial gifts (as indeed happened between Cook’s officers and Maori in a number of other locations). Such presentations were not lightly made, and an important taonga like this ancestor, full of the mana of its kin group, would have been reserved only for the most distinguished guests and the most potent of transactions. If Hinematioro’s poupou was offered to any member of Cook’s crew, it would surely have been to the Ra’iatean priest.”

Hinematioro in Auckland

In 2012, another Hinematioro poupou was loaned for an exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum. Transported in a fire, water and crashproof box from Auckland Museum to Gisborne for the Te Ara o Kopu: Transit of Venus exhibition the pou was a symbol of much of the history, tradition, whakapapa and genealogy that unites all tribes of the East Coast, said then Te Ara o Kopu ki Uawa steering group co-chairman Victor Walker.

“Hinematioro was recognised as the paramount chieftainess of Tairawhiti. She could go from Uawa to Te Kaha. She was quite magnificent in her influence. The pou is invested with her being. Imbued in her is the special essence of her ancestors. The pou is the physical manifestation of her life-force.”

This pou takes the form of a figure carved over most of her body and standing with hands to stomach and chest, says an Auckland Museum entry. “Her head and torso is surrounded by an openwork design, much of which has broken away. Between her legs is a second figure, carved over much of the body.”

While the features are similar to those of the Tubingen poupou the eyes are circular and bright with inset paua-shell. The spirals are smaller and tighter than those seen in the Tubingen poupou, and denticulate notching features on the figure’s shoulders. The finely patterned arms are more recognisable as limbs and the figure’s four-fingered hands rest on her torso.

Hinematioro died in 1823 following an attack on her island pa, Pourewa at Opoutama-Cook’s Cove.

When Te Wera Hauraki of Nga Puhi came to the East Coast after the Nga Puhi capture of Mokoia Island, Rotorua, Te Whanau-a-Ruataupare hapu of Tokomaru Bay, and other elements of Ngati Porou, besieged Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, says online encyclopaedia Te Ara.

“Hinematioro, by now an ageing woman, was with her people in beleaguered Te Pourewa pa. As the fall of the pa seemed imminent, Hinematioro and her grandson, Te Hemanawa, were helped down the island’s cliffs into a canoe to escape; but the canoe capsized and its occupants drowned. There are conflicting accounts of Hinematioro’s fate, but Whangara elders maintain her body was found and buried at Te Ana-a-Paikea (Whangara Island).

The poupou that is now housed at Auckland Museum had been buried in a swamp in Whangara to prevent marauding tribes from taking it. The taonga was retrieved in the 1800s.

As seen by other artists

Magic realist artist Alvin Pankhurst has depicted the Auckland Museum poupou as half-buried in beach dunes while Robyn Kahukiwa has portrayed Hinematioro as a commanding figure in red, orange and yellow with flashes of black. The no-nonsense, sharp-eyed karearea (falcon) perched on her lap looks past the viewer while in her hand Hinematioro holds the carved form of a lizard.

Taking the Auckland Museum poupou as her inspiration, artist Melanie Tahata looked at the facial structure of the pou and the lattice-like work around her.

“I imagined that the lattice structures were really small manaia working their way around the face, but attached, like hair. Mmmm, writhing hair piece ”

Tahata then added a peak cap as worn by members of Turbojugend, the international fan club of Norwegian deathpunk band Turbonegro, and some makeup.

“There she is,” writes Tahata on her webpage. “Baleful one-eyed glare and all.”

Alive with design detail the Hinematioro poupou (carved panel) is a vivid addition to the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition at Tairawhiti museum.

Said to be known for her kindness, hospitality and wise decisions, Hinematioro spent most of her life in the Uawa-Whangara district among the hapu Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ngati Konohi. The paramount East Coast chieftainess was 16 or 17 when she met explorer James Cook at Anaura Bay and gifted him, or gentleman botanist Joseph Banks, or Ra’iatean navigator and arioi Tupaia, the poupou. The high-born young woman of influence also facilitated the re-supply of Cook’s ship Endeavour with fresh water and food.

The Hinematioro poupou is now on loan from the University of Tubingen, Germany to the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition.

“The poupou that now resides in Tubingen was collected on Pourewa Island, just south of Uawa, where an impressive wharenui (large house) was being built for Hinematioro, a young chieftain descended from Hauiti’s most senior lines, at the time of the Endeavour’s visit,” say scholar Wayne Ngata, anthropologist Billie Lythberg and social anthropologist Amiria Salmond in a paper called Toi Hauiti and Hinematioro: a Maori ancestor in a German castle.

Sculptor/academic Robert Jahnke has identified the carving style of the poupou as exemplifying that of the Te Rawheoro school at Uawa, say the paper’s authors.

“One of the most distinctive stylistic features associated with Te Rawheoro is the denticulate notching called taratara-a-kae . . . Jahnke indeed asserts that Te Rawheoro was responsible for introducing much of ‘the essential visual vocabulary’ that would later feature in carving styles throughout the Bay of Plenty and along the East Coast.”

The Hinematioro wall panel is rectangular in form but the compact figure is stylistically animated with notched patterns in the large slanted eyes, protruding tongue, notched whorls that comprise the shoulders and chest; truncated legs, and the torso of the smaller figure between her legs. Spirals also feature in the main figure’s hands over her mid-section. Open spirals fill the space around her head.

Hinematioro in Germany

The poupou was donated to the University in 1937 by Emma von Luschan, daughter of geographer Ferdinand von Hochstetter, but was found to be in a state of considerable degradation, write Ngata, Lythberg and Salmond.

“The top part of the panel had been cut down, removing parts of the slanted eyes of the main ancestral figure. A rough restoration had been carried out in 1977 . . . The sawn-out voids were patched with pieces of local conifer wood, and the carving was covered with a purple-red paint.

“Conservator Anke Scharrahs’ ‘re-restoration’ replaced the wooden patches with aged totara wood sourced from Aotearoa New Zealand to match the poupou’s original timber. Scharrahs used (John Frederick) Miller’s sketch as a guide to reinstate the fine whakairo on the new totara patches, and she carefully recreated the original red pigment applied to the poupou, discovered in the form of a residue beneath its coat of purple-red and a previous layer of black.”

Pacific anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond has speculated local chiefs presented the poupou as a gift to Banks, “although carvings embodied ancestors and this house must have been highly tapu”, note the co-writers of Toi Hauiti and Hinematioro.

A scenario in which the poupou was presented instead to Tupaia is considered more likely.

“The Tahitian’s status and genealogical connections would have demanded acknowledgement from Hauiti’s people in the form of ceremonial gifts (as indeed happened between Cook’s officers and Maori in a number of other locations). Such presentations were not lightly made, and an important taonga like this ancestor, full of the mana of its kin group, would have been reserved only for the most distinguished guests and the most potent of transactions. If Hinematioro’s poupou was offered to any member of Cook’s crew, it would surely have been to the Ra’iatean priest.”

Hinematioro in Auckland

In 2012, another Hinematioro poupou was loaned for an exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum. Transported in a fire, water and crashproof box from Auckland Museum to Gisborne for the Te Ara o Kopu: Transit of Venus exhibition the pou was a symbol of much of the history, tradition, whakapapa and genealogy that unites all tribes of the East Coast, said then Te Ara o Kopu ki Uawa steering group co-chairman Victor Walker.

“Hinematioro was recognised as the paramount chieftainess of Tairawhiti. She could go from Uawa to Te Kaha. She was quite magnificent in her influence. The pou is invested with her being. Imbued in her is the special essence of her ancestors. The pou is the physical manifestation of her life-force.”

This pou takes the form of a figure carved over most of her body and standing with hands to stomach and chest, says an Auckland Museum entry. “Her head and torso is surrounded by an openwork design, much of which has broken away. Between her legs is a second figure, carved over much of the body.”

While the features are similar to those of the Tubingen poupou the eyes are circular and bright with inset paua-shell. The spirals are smaller and tighter than those seen in the Tubingen poupou, and denticulate notching features on the figure’s shoulders. The finely patterned arms are more recognisable as limbs and the figure’s four-fingered hands rest on her torso.

Hinematioro died in 1823 following an attack on her island pa, Pourewa at Opoutama-Cook’s Cove.

When Te Wera Hauraki of Nga Puhi came to the East Coast after the Nga Puhi capture of Mokoia Island, Rotorua, Te Whanau-a-Ruataupare hapu of Tokomaru Bay, and other elements of Ngati Porou, besieged Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, says online encyclopaedia Te Ara.

“Hinematioro, by now an ageing woman, was with her people in beleaguered Te Pourewa pa. As the fall of the pa seemed imminent, Hinematioro and her grandson, Te Hemanawa, were helped down the island’s cliffs into a canoe to escape; but the canoe capsized and its occupants drowned. There are conflicting accounts of Hinematioro’s fate, but Whangara elders maintain her body was found and buried at Te Ana-a-Paikea (Whangara Island).

The poupou that is now housed at Auckland Museum had been buried in a swamp in Whangara to prevent marauding tribes from taking it. The taonga was retrieved in the 1800s.

As seen by other artists

Magic realist artist Alvin Pankhurst has depicted the Auckland Museum poupou as half-buried in beach dunes while Robyn Kahukiwa has portrayed Hinematioro as a commanding figure in red, orange and yellow with flashes of black. The no-nonsense, sharp-eyed karearea (falcon) perched on her lap looks past the viewer while in her hand Hinematioro holds the carved form of a lizard.

Taking the Auckland Museum poupou as her inspiration, artist Melanie Tahata looked at the facial structure of the pou and the lattice-like work around her.

“I imagined that the lattice structures were really small manaia working their way around the face, but attached, like hair. Mmmm, writhing hair piece ”

Tahata then added a peak cap as worn by members of Turbojugend, the international fan club of Norwegian deathpunk band Turbonegro, and some makeup.

“There she is,” writes Tahata on her webpage. “Baleful one-eyed glare and all.”

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Melanie Tahata - 16 days ago
Kia ora Mark, thanks for mentioning my art in your article.
This year I re-visited the piece, tweaking the peak cap by adding a tipare (headband) to it. The design has been printed on to a hoody and is part of the 'Ko Au Ko Matou' exhibition, which is now on at the Tairawhiti Museum. Next door to 'Tu te Whaihanga'.
Mauri Ora!
Melanie Tahata

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