Take a tour with Te Ahurei Māori Tourism in Waikato and immerse yourself in storytelling and art.
Waikato in the North Island is a place with a very deep, complicated history. It is here that the Māori King movement began, that wars were fought, and where some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most celebrated Māori scholars, artists and storytellers hail from.
After the ocean-voyaging vessel Tainui came to Aotearoa more than 800 years ago, it was buried under a hill in the Waikato town of Kaawhia. A school was established there named Te Ahurei.
Les first came up with the idea for Te Ahurei in 2019 during Matariki, Māori new year, at a conference for indigenous peoples from all over the world. His pou – pillars – in creating the experience were his mother Shirley and his sister Charity.
With their support, he shares the histories of Waikato with the messages behind the significant public artworks in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, nestled on the banks of the mighty Waikato River.
On a looped, two-hour walk, he’ll take you to seven amazing artworks that are shining examples of the skill and mastery that can be found in this unique region.
Taking art out of the gallery
Among the popular eateries, busy streets and stunning views of the river, your imagination will be ignited. Les seamlessly weaves local historical narratives with the stories gifted to him by local artists, to unlock the meaning in their artwork, such as Michael Parekowhai’s towering Tongue of the Dog, built to resemble the Cuisenaire rods used in teaching the Māori language. Or the interactive sculpture Tōia Mai, a partially-submersed waka that is activated by movement using data and environmental sensors.
Māori people regard storytelling as one of the greatest skills a person can have, and Les is a master of the craft. From murals and carvings, to stunning abstract sculpture, the streets are your art gallery and Les is as knowledgeable about their form and meaning as any guide at the Museum of Modern Art.