Major carving project to replicate Rotorua tourism icon

A unique carved entranceway is being replicated at the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia in Rotorua.

A carved waharoa (entranceway) that is widely regarded as one of the historic symbols of Rotorua and cultural tourism is being expertly replicated at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) at Te Puia in Rotorua.

The work is being undertaken as part of the 50 Year Celebrations to acknowledge the Act of Parliament that established NZMACI and Te Puia in the form that they are today.

The original waharoa was carved by Tene Waitere  a renowned Te Arawa carver, as one of two that were exhibited at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Hagley Park, Christchurch, in 1908.

Following the close of the exhibition, one of the waharoa was transported to Rotorua where it was erected in Te Whakarewarewa Valley. It became a symbol of cultural tourism, with generations of visitors having their photos taken beside it. The second waharoa is on permanent display on level two of the National Museum, Te Papa, in Wellington.

NZMACI director, Karl Johnstone, says replicating carving requires a special set of skills in order to recreate the piece as closely as possible to the original. He says the project is made even more complex as the waharoa is double sided.

“This is an extensive and complex project that has a very strong connection to the Whakarewarewa Valley and Rotorua. The original waharoa is an iconic symbol of the development of tourism in New Zealand, and the replica will continue that story for many years to come.”

The work will be undertaken by senior carver Albert Te Pou, who will carve the waharoa with the wood standing in a vertical position. The waharoa will be carved from a five metre high, three tonne piece of bush-felled Northland kauri.

The carving work is taking place behind the pātaka (food storage house), which is located on Rotowhio Marae at Te Puia. Visitors will be able to watch the carving work underway as the project progresses in the coming months. It is hoped that the replica waharoa will be complete by September, for the key 50 Year Celebrations events.

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