THE NEWMAN PARE
Known for many years as the “Newman Pare” after its former owner, the Hon. Dr A. K. Newman of Wellington, a keen student of ethnology and author of the well known work “Who are the Maoris?”.
Dr Newman was the owner of a large private collection of Maori artifacts which he sold in 1933 to Dr A. H. E. Wall of Wanganui who presented the collection to the Wanganui Public Museum as a memorial to his son John Barnicoat Wall who lost his life while climbing on Mount Ruapehu.
Showing little effect from long immersion in swamp mud, the locality of this Pare is not known, but it has many features that could suggest the Hauraki district as its place of origin. Stone-tooled from a shapeless plank of totara into an object of great beauty, it is undoubtedly the work of a carver possessed of imagination, and well skilled in this form of art.
Having an overall length of 42 inches and a height of 12 inches, a grooved ledge protrudes from the rear of this carving to fit the width of the wall of the house it was carved for, and roughly squared holes have been cut at either end of this ledge to take the uprights of the door surround.
Perhaps more typical of an earlier school of carvers, who combined simplicity of design with a reserved use of intervening space, yet conforming in general design and shape to the conventional pare with a large central female figure attended on either side by similar but smaller figures, each one with enlarged widely opened mouth and protruded tongue.
The small figure whose body curves beneath the lower edge fits between the clasping feet of the central figure and could be portrayed as an off-spring. It could perhaps represent the legend of Maui and Hinenuitepo, the goddess of the underworld as suggested in an accompanying label.
The Manaia, a favourite motif on door and window lintels, is often portrayed in strange and varied form, complying with the carver's desire to adapt the shape to fit into an allotted space, or to give balance to the whole design.
On this Pare, carved to fit the upturned curve at either end, stands guard a rare mammalian form of manaia with three clawed feet and open mouth. The pierced tracery of entwined spirals that fills the space between the figures has been carefully cut and gives a lightness to the upper portion of this design; it also serves to emphasize the curving bodies of the two outside figures. The lower section has been left unpierced to give strength to the ledge at the back.
Well suited to the purpose for which it was designed, the whole thing is a splendid work of art, and if the carving of the rest of the house was in the same class as this Pare, it must indeed have been something of great beauty.