It takes two to weave tukutuku. At the Judea hall, the woman on the left is seen in front of a tukutuku panel, laying the flax over it according to the design. She passes the ends through the panel to the woman shown on the right who performs the no less skilled work of tying the ends down. (photo john ashton).
FOR ARTS AND CRAFTS
Some time ago, Te Ao Hou visited the people of Judea, a settlement near Tauranga. We found that here wood carving and tukutuku work were practised with a zeal and perseverance that would have delighted bygone generations. Faced with such a hive of industry and enthusiasm. Te Ao Hou discarded its notebook and said to the people: ‘Please tell your own story. You can do it better than we.’ A little while later, the people of Judea sent in the following story:
The shrill cry of seagulls wheeling in everwidening circles around Mount Maunganui holds a special significance for us. We watch the aged Mount towering majestically above the chaos of holiday-makers and the nearby seaport—a lonely but jealous guardian.
We remember how long ago Atamatea discovered this haven, with its tall stately bush, its shellfish, birds and untouched scenery. ‘Here we shall live,’ said the great chief, ‘to worship our atua in peace and safety.’ To preserve the home of his ancestors, he named the landing place after the great Tauranga, and the hill Maunganui too was named after an ancestor.
Today this fine picture is transformed by the ‘civilization’ of the pakeha; each day ships come and go at the newly constructed wharf.
Two miles west of Tauranga is Judea, a small Maori community inhabiting an area of about forty acres, insufficient to support its inhabitants. The misfortune of the people, Ngati
Ranginui, arose from the part they took in the battle of Gate Pa (1864) and the confiscation of their land by the Crown. In spite of setbacks, social progress remained the aim of the elders of the Pa, so they made plans to build a meeting house.
After several meetings the men decided to take the timber for the house from certain land owned by them. Then war was declared. The plan was dropped; some of the men enlisted for service abroad, while others formed a Home Guard platoon. All money raising from then on was for the Patriotic Fund. At long last, when peace returned, the people decided to concentrate first on the building of communal baths (described in an earlier issue of Te Ao Hou and since successfully operated), and also a chapel.
The year 1949 opened a new era for the people of the Pa. It was then that Adult Education, through Dr Maharaia Winiata, first brought us closer to European culture. Dr. Winiata, who besides holding a doctorate in Philosophy, has a degree in Theology, a Diploma of Education and some stages of Law to his credit, worked with us for two years and rekindled and transformed the idea of building the long-planned meeting house.
At first he came, together with his Director, Mr Morrison, and discussed the origin of the Maori. He contended that all Polynesians em barked from a common point thought to be in Siberia or Tibet. If this was so, the Maori must at one time have passed through or near India. This theory led to a lot of discussion, with Koroua, our elder, strongly opposing him with arguments based on the Kon Tiki expedition.
From these discussions Dr Winiata moved on to genealogies. Cyclostyled pamphlets were is sued to each member of the class and our elder Te Hare Piahana lectured us in great detail. It was at this point that the idea of a carving school arose. We saw that we wanted a carved house where our ancestors could be remembered. We also saw that, having no money pay carvers, we would have to do the work ourselves.
The answer came to us through Adult Education. Mr Morrison, the Director of the Auckland Regional Council, knew a most worthy gentleman, Mr Henry Toka, of the Ngati Whatua (Northland) now living in Auckland and a great expert in this form of Maori art. Some of his most noted works may be found in Wanganui, Auckland and Northland. Adult Education arranged for Mr Toka to come to Judea regularly and guide the people in the carving of their meeting house. Perhaps providence inspired Mr Motrison in selecting Mr Toka for we have surely gained much benefit from his teaching.
We formed a committee to administer the building of the house; its chairman was Mr Robert Nepia and the secretary Mr Hoani Kohu. The carving and tukutuku work was entrusted to thirty-five people—all financial supporters too—who formed the ‘Ranginui Academy of Maori Arts and Crafts’. Mr Toka directs them, but in his absence Messrs Danny Greening and Anaru Kohu deputize, both of whom gained their carving experience during
Dan Greening, one of the skilled carvers of the group, is looking at a completed panel.
Behind him are the plans for the new meeting house. (photo: john ashton).
Twenty students were assigned to the woodcarving. Timber was bought in Taumarunui, through the help of Mr Pei Jones.
We learnt the proper use of the different chisels, and the right ones for the various cuts. We learnt to handle the adze, quite an ordeal at first, but with a casual reminder on stance, swing and balance, this art was also mastered. The need for razor-sharp tools became obvious to us.
Mr Toka gave lessons on design drawing and pointed out that one has to be an accomplished artist to draw the various curvilinear patterns. He taught the moulding or ‘opening up’ of the slab of totara which in time would form a figure. He explained the human anatomy depicted on the hewn log, dividing the figure into head, body and leg sections. We also learnt much about the symbolism of carving: for instance we were told that a figure which had a koukou (a knob located on the forehead of the figure) always referred to a male.
Finally, surface decoration and body ornamentation had to be learnt. The most common
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening the school comes together from 7.30 to 10.30. The soft tapping of mallet on wood resounds through the silent darkness. A woman laughs; a baritone breaks into a crescendo. The instructor's voice is just audible. On one side of the hall the men are carving, on the other the women carry on with the tukutuku work. They too are guided by the Adult Education organization, for with Mr Toka on his visits to Judea comes his wife, who is an acknowledged expert in these crafts.
The new meeting house will be sixty feet long and thirty wide. It will be called Ko Atamatea Pokai Whenua after Atamatea, navigator of the Takitimu canoe and a great explorer and adventurer. Mr Vernon Brown, the noted Auckland architect, has helped us without charge by designing the house, which incorporates many modern features such as coupe louvre windows and corrugated fibrolite roofing. Mr Brown also revived an ancient Maori structural idea that had been forgotten of late, although our ancestors knew it.
In the old meeting houses, the ridgepole was supported chiefly by powerful centre posts sunk deep into the ground. In Pakeha days timber flooring was introduced, the centre posts were put on top of the floor, and in this way the task of supporting the ridgepole was chiefly left to the rafters. In the bigger houses rafters had to be supported by ungainly steel girders.
In Mr Vernon Brown's design stout centre posts go through the floor deep into the ground. Their strength is enough to hold up the ridgepole. As an added precaution, the lower end of the rafters will be tied to the ground outside the house. Inside there will be no tie-beams, no steel girders. The structure will be simple and stark like that of the pre-pakeha meeting houses.
A women's committee was organized to raise funds for the building. They tried every conceivable idea — jumble sales, contributions, dances, tennis tournaments and recently a bring-and-buy raised £150. The money collected will be eligible for a £ for £ government subsidy. A substantial sum is already available.
A new era is dawning for the people of Judea pa. They are trying by their great undertaking to restore their lost prestige. Their effort reflects the spirit of love, unity and co-operation and a determination to succeed. This whare nui will stand as a symbol of progress and great achievement, a memorial to the immortals of the seven canoes, and an appropriate meeting place for future generations.
* Tuarakuri (lit. ‘dog's back’) is a Northland term given because of the likeness of the notching to the manner in which the hairs stand up straight on the back of a native dog when it is angry. (Phillipps, Maori Carving for Beginners).