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Its not every day that you get to see the creation of a four tonne, 3.6 metre high art work that is destined for the United Nations, but visitors to Te Puia over the next few months will have that unique opportunity.
Māori Tū is a bronze whatarangi (elevated storehouse) that will be a gift from the Māori nations of Aotearoa New Zealand as a symbol of endorsement for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The work is being created by tutors and students at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia.
Whatarangi – elevated storehouse
The work involves the creation of two whatarangi – a wooden carved original which will remain in New Zealand and a four tonne bronze cast version, which is proposed to be presented to the United Nations.
The tohu (symbol) of the whatarangi was chosen for Māori Tū as the storehouse represents the wealth and importance of Māori cultural heritage.
The whatarangi is a symbol of safe-keeping, identity and cultural wellbeing, and it represents the storage and maintenance of tangible and intangible heritage – all aspects that the Declaration sets out to protect.
Pushing the limits of bronze
In order to create the significant piece, a foundry has been created on site at Te Puia, with the carvers and artists pushing the limits of the bronze material. While bronze may be considered to be contemporary in terms of Māori culture, the skills and techniques have been used for more than 7000 years elsewhere in the world.
Bronze also has a long history in New Zealand – even though it may not be well known – cast bronze patu (short weapons) were traded with iwi on Captain James Cook’s second voyage to New Zealand between 1772 and 1775.
NZMACI is also bringing a unique sense of the valley to the casting process, using the geothermal waters of Te Whakarewarewa to patina the bronze.
Māori Tū reinforces Te Puia | NZMACI’s founding legislation to protect and perpetuate Māori art, craft and culture, and to enable connections with indigenous cultures around the world.
Key Facts and Figures – Māori Tū Whatarangi
• Being created at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia in Rotorua
• Base 1600 mm x 2375 mm
• Paepae (Barge board) 2400 mm
• Support pole 2375 mm
• Total height 3650 mm
• Estimated weight 4 – 4.5 tonne