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No. 24 (October 1958)
– 35 –

OTAGO MAORIS
BUILD IN
THE OLD STYLE …
WITH A DIFFERENCE

IN these modern times examples of Maori architecture in the South Island are rare. Buildings which existed in pre-pakeha days have long since vanished—destroyed by fire or fallen into ruin and decay. The ones figured here have been built at the small settlement of Otakou, seventeen miles from Dunedin, since 1940.

The ceremonial gates were built in 1940 to celebrate the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. For though it seems a long way from the scene of that historic event, the Treaty was signed here by the Southern Chiefs Karetai and Korako.

The church is a memorial to the work of the Methodist Church in Otago, and to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the arrival in 1841 of the Rev. James Watkin, the first missionary to Otago. It is, however, a Maori mission church, and services may be held there by the clergy of any denomination. The whole of the interior has been decorated in typical Maori style and colours are the characteristic red, white and black. The sanctuary is lined to a height of about five feet with genuine tukutuku—imported from the North. Above the altar is a beautiful window of stained glass, the work of Mr John Brock of Dunedin. The pulpit also has panels of tukutuku.

At the back of the church a door leads into another room, a museum where hundreds of interesting relies of Maori and Pakeha occupation of the district may be seen.

The hall was built later, and it is, for so small a district, a truly splendid one. It has the design of a whare runanga outwardly at least.

Contrary to what one might expect both buildings are entirely made of brick, concrete, and cement, even to the so-called ‘carvings’. These were cast in a reddish brown colour from moulds made of genuine carvings in the Otago Museum.

Alas! How scattered are the tribes! Seldom now do the walls echo to the sound of waiata, karanga and korero. Yet a great variety of functions is held there—from school concerts and ‘bring and buy’ sales to banquets, balls and receptions to prominent visitors; from the joyous wedding feast to the mourning of the tangi.