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No. 2 (Spring 1952)
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NGARUAWAHIA

FORTRESS OF MAORI CULTURE

Turangawaewae Pa covers only some twelve acres; yet few contributions to Maori progress during the last thirty years have been greater than the building and unceasing improvement of this pa.

Great Maori leaders who finally emerged as national figures have always been devoted to the advancement of their own people. Sir Apirana Ngata began by establishing farming among his own Ngati-Porou. His ideas were spread by the support of his tribe, and this meant not only ‘moral’ support but support in terms of hard work and hard cash.

The late Te Puea Herangi, grand-daughter of King Tawhiao, followed a similar pattern, but with a difference. This difference lay in her conviction that the Maori Kingship could be made the core of Maori life among the Kingite tribes. The message of the Maori Kingship, as Te Puea understood it, can be plainly seen at Turangawaewae. Seldom can the Maori art of expressing ideas through the design of carvings, buildings and maraes have been more effective.

The visitor first notices the forbidding palisades; he is struck by the strength—almost the disdain—expressed in the carved ponga heads facing him at regular intervals.

The visitor enters the marae: meticulous care and punctilious tidiness. Goodness only knows how often they mow the lawns, trim the edges, remove the weeds: not even a piece of waste paper on a pathway. The effort made to achieve all this tidiness with voluntary labour may be imagined.

The main buildings are Mahinarangi meeting-house and Turongo, the ‘King's House’. Mahinarangi, completed in 1929, is from the outside an ordinary meeting-house. Many tribes contributed to its construction, and the decorations include features of all tribes. Its proposed use was as a King's council chamber. The large platform was intended to seat King Koroki and the arikis, and the rest of the King's Council were to occupy the remainder of the hall. Soon, however, Mahinarangi became a state reception hall. It was filled with carpets, mats and very comfortable furniture. Works of art, donated by visitors from all parts of the world found a place in it.

The entire space of the platform was occupied by the King's varied store of treasures. The combination of objects that one sees in this decorous but impressing reception chamber must be unique. In spite of the comfortable armchairs, settees, rugs and carpets, the hall bears no resemblance to a drawing room. In spite of cloaks, weapons, souvenirs, model canoes, and hundreds of miscellaneous objects with a history, one does not think for one moment it is a museum. On an Axminster carpet, next to a Chesterfield, stands an object that looks like a bizarre but magnificent carving, about five feet high. It is a distorted kauri root, found in a swamp near Panguru.

In Mahinarangi one is in the presence not only of many famous Waikato ancestors but one also observes the relations with many prominent persons, Maori and Pakeha, not only in New Zealand, but all over the world, and one particularly notices the many gifts from other islands in the Pacific.

One Maori leader said recently: ‘Without Mahinarangi, Turongo would not have been built.’

Turongo is built as a Court. In outline, it resembles an English manor but the decorations express the Maori Kingship to perfection. The symbolic carvings were not this time made in collaboration with artists from the whole island, but by Waikato men of the Tainui canoe only. The strictest rules of tapu were followed: the tukutuku, after being prepared by the women, was installed by the men. Special storehouses, shaped like pataka, were built directly under the roof for the most sacred heirlooms.

The carvings show the complex and illustrious ancestry of the Waikato arikis. The seven cornered dome is made to symbolize the seven canoes from which they claim descent. Figures representing the captains of the several canoes stand out boldly at each of the corners. In the central windowpane of the main door the King's arms are painted. The main state chamber is the dining-room. Here, the decoration is extremely rich and powerful. Even the slide

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The marae, with Mahinarangi and the King's house (Turongo) in the background.

between dining room and pantry is elaborately carved—in fact, it is one of the finest carvings in the hall. One looks admiringly at the precious table mats, the splendid tukutuku, and the richness of every detail; no labour was too great.

The impression is of a monumental work, especially as one finds it among the Maoris of that district where the collecting of money for communal projects—at least until fairly recently—was enormously difficult, because there simply was no money. Most of the King's Pa was built by free labour on a most extensive scale. For long, what money was spent had to come from sources like the ‘Whitebait Fund’, accumulated by Ngati Tipa and Ngataierua fishermen, who put aside a penny for each pound of whitebait they sold.

The careful maintenance of Koroki's house with its roomy halls, its well-appointed kitchen, and beautiful grounds, is an act of continuous devotion and homage to their King on the part of the Pa inhabitants. But far more activity is seen than mere maintenance. On the Saturday morning of my visit a truck arrived with bricks for a garage; men were finishing a new wharepuni ‘Pare Hauraki’ for visitors to the annual Coronation Day gatherings—the lining was just being put in. The carvers had finished their work, but the slabs were still in the workshop. Everyone seemed confident the house would be finished by October. These wharepuni, of which three are already complete, are in themselves fully fledged meeting-houses, although the decoration inside is simple, in accordance with their function—that of sleeping-houses. In the carvers' workroom there

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Treasures at Mahinarangi: in the foreground, King Tawhiao.

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Ceremonial house of King Koroki.

were no fewer than three craftsmen who had preferred the arts of their ancestors to the Ranfurly Shield match; on other Saturdays the number of carvers is much greater. Also working was the lady who keeps the shop at Turangawaewae; this shop is run on the strictest lines, and its proceeds help in the maintenance and development of the Pa.

This, then, is the outward appearance of the heart of today's King movement. It is very good housekeeping on a large and impressive scale. It is possible for the tribes who recognize the King's leadership to find in Turangawaewae Pa an ideal to imitate and aim at. In the Waikato idea of Kingship the King is not kept in great luxury, and the people's efforts are not spent in attending on his person. Many of the buildings erected with such labour at Ngaruawahia are for communal use, others for ceremonial use in receiving the prominent chiefs. Neatness and decency in communal life—that is perhaps the best way of describing it.

How Turangawaewae Pa was built up with immense hard work—there were certainly no ‘handouts' for the builders of this pa—is a wonderful story which cannot be told in this article. As all suitable land for a pa on the historic site of Ngaruawahia had been confiscated after the war of the sixties, this area had to be bought back. The purchase price had to be earned by Te Puea and her people by collecting flax in the swamps, and when the purchase price was earned once, the vendor raised the price, and it had to be earned again. Then blackberry had to be cleared; a whole hill had to be shifted to even out the ground; the earth had to be carried away in baskets, ‘Chinese fashion’, so it was explained to me. Sanitation and modern living had to be introduced. In one great effort after another the halls and meeting-houses were built.

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Turangawaewae is by no means considered complete as yet. There are many plans for improvement, both in the public buildings and in home construction. For this reason the Turangawaewae sawmill project was started: the Pa now owns a fully fledged sawmill, and a tractor of the heaviest type. Te Puea planned to have this mill used for the cutting of timber required in the pa, either for meeting-houses or homes. There is no doubt that in Dave Katipa the project has a competent works manager. If it proves successful, the communal way of life at Turangawaewae will become much easier to manage, because essential supplies and a source of ready money will always be at hand. It is for this reason probably that Te Puea was so keen to have the sawmill established during her lifetime.

In Turangawaewae the traditional Maori arts and crafts are practised in an organized and extensive manner. I have mentioned the carving. The chief carver, Hoani Herangi, runs a workshop with a neat and modern look, where the carving required in Ngaruawahia is made, and also jobs for other maraes needing work done. At present a big project is in hand for renovations to the famous carved houses of Tuwharetoa, at Waihi, on the shores of Taupo. Before starting on such a work, the chief carver will listen to the elders of the other tribe relating the stories of their principal ancestors. The house is then planned to express the desired ideas. Hoani Herangi is educating several

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The new Turangawaewae sowmill.

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Carving workshop at Turangawaewae.

pupils. All these craftsmen earn their living at good permanent jobs, one on the railways, another in the mines, and so on, and carving is an occupation for evenings and weekends. The whole workroom has a modern and lively feel; carving looks far from a dying art here. It is looked upon as a tapu work, and no carvings are made for sale to pakehas.

The women have similar work groups for tukutuku and weaving. Some people are worried because not enough of the younger generation are learning these crafts, but there are some, and there are always enough hands at Turangawaewae for the time-absorbing task of collecting and preparing the flax. A good supply of well-tied bundles is always hanging ready for the skilled workers.

What of the future? The tribes have accepted the Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act; the settlement of the Waikato claims against the confiscation of their land has resulted in co-operation by the Waikato with the Government. Obviously attitudes are changing. Yet the achievement of Turangawaewae can easily remain, and develop under the new circumstances. This highly cultivated spot has always shown, if one looks beneath the surface, a blend of the two cultures. And what a painful, lonely task it was for the people of Turangawaewae to achieve that blend! It was a rare sort of social pioneering, through which chaos was changed into order.

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PRINCESS TE PUEA HERANGI
Granddaughter of King Tawhiao.
1884-1952