Volume 105 1996 > Volume 105, No. 1 > Te Hau ki Turanga, by Deidre S. Brown, p 7-26
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Te Hau ki Turanga, built on the East Coast last century and now situated inside the Museum of New Zealand (formerly known as the Dominion Museum) in Wellington, is the oldest extant meeting house in New Zealand. By recounting its construction under Raharuhi Rukupo in the early 1840s, its subsequent removal to the museum in the 1860s, and its renovation in the 1930s by Sir Apirana Ngata and the School of Maori Arts and Crafts, many issues of theoretical interest can be examined. This house was built during a period of rapid technological, religious, political and economic development for Maori. These changes influenced the form and function of an emerging meeting house architecture. The removal of Te Hau ki Turanga 25 years after its construction raises questions not only of colonial ethics, but also of the reliability of ethnographic information. These points are discussed further in respect to the decontextualisation of the house within the museum over a 70-year period. A liberation, of sorts, was achieved during the renovation of Te Hau ki Turanga by the School of Maori Arts and Crafts, when the house became the prototype for Ngata's ‘traditional’ Maori meeting house revival. The implications of this use of Western scientific knowledge on the fabric and function of the house will also be analysed.


‘Te Hau ki Turanga’ can be translated as the ‘spirit’ or ‘good-tidings from Turanga’. This name may have been derived from an Arawa narrative which recounted that the first carved house in the Rotorua district was a gift from the Turanga people (Barrow 1976:5). There is no direct evidence to suggest when Te Hau ki Turanga was built at Orakaiapu Pa. Only two secondary estimates have been provided by men who became involved with the house in the late 1860s, some time after its construction. The first is contained in a letter written by Major Reginald Biggs on 27th August 1868, where he recounted that Turanga locals, from whom he had bought the house the previous year, had told him that the construction of Te Hau ki Turanga began in October 1842 and was completed six months later. However, Terrence Barrow has questioned the ability of the carvers to finish the house in such a short time, and has instead proposed that these dates refer only to the erection of the house following the completion of the carvings. He qualifies

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Interior view of Te Hau ki Turanga, Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, 1988 (M. Strange, MONZ reg. no. B18357)
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his position further by noting that Biggs wrote that ‘the time it took in building is a point on which many of the natives disagree’ (Biggs in Barrow 1976:5-7). The second estimate of Te Hau ki Turanga's date of construction was also given in 1868 by Tareha Te Moananui, Member of Parliament for Eastern Maori, at the inaugural meeting of the New Zealand Institute inside the house which was then contained within the Museum. He simply said that the house was ‘built at Turanga, in Poverty Bay, in 1845’ without explaining the term ‘built’ to any greater extent. It is difficult to place Tareha in Turanga at his proposed date of construction, and from the tenor of the remainder of his lecture - published in the Institute's Transactions - it appears that he was not speaking from personal knowledge (Te Moananui 1868). While there is not enough information to attach any particular dates to Te Hau ki Turanga's construction, it would seem that the house was largely, if not completely, carved and built during the early 1840s and in use by 1845.

The house was constructed during the early years of colonial contact between Maori and Pakeha, the effects of which would have influenced the daily lives and destiny of its builders. Both Biggs and Tareha credit Raharuhi Rukupo, a rangatira of the Turanga based Rongowhakata sub-tribe Ngati Kaipoho, for supervising the construction of the house. Extrapolating from estimates of Rukupo's age at his death in 1873, Bernie Kernot believes that he was born about 1800. Hence, he certainly would have experienced some of the major events and influences of Pakeha colonisation including: the Treaty of Waitangi and Christianity - both of which arrived in Turanga in 1840; the beginnings of an agrarian economy and land sales to Pakeha in the 1850s; the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, and ensuing confiscations (Kernot 1984:151-2). The impact of these rapid social and economic changes on Rukupo and Rongowhakata are consequently apparent in Te Hau ki Turanga's construction, function and later history.

Pakeha technology was probably adapted into pre-existing Rongowhakata carving customs. Steel tools had been present in Turanga since Cook's arrival in 1769 (Barrow 1976:17). Since Rukupo was the son of a rangatira, he would have been trained in their application to carving, which Tareha notes was at that time the art of the ruling classes (Te Moananui 1868). Little has been recorded about the training of these tohunga whakairo, since their practices were extremely tapu and retained within the family. However, Elsdon Best and Percy Smith have suggested that instruction was either carried out by individual tutors within the descent line - in the case of specialised family knowledge, or in whare wānanga - where a more generalised tribal style was probably taught (Best 1923:27; Smith 1899:261). Therefore, it would seem that for Rukupo to assume a supervisory role in the carving of Te Hau ki Turanga, he would have had intensive individual tuition - 10 in the high-relief steel-tool Rongowhakata style during his youth (Simmons 1984:107).

New religious ideas and a desire for tribal unity may have also influenced the function of the house, although there is not enough evidence to suggest that older patterns of usage were completely abandoned. According to Biggs, the house was dedicated to Tamati Waka Mangere, the leader of the hapū and elder brother of Rukupo (Biggs in Barrow 1976:5-7). Tamati signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, but according to Kernot, he died shortly afterwards leaving the leadership of the tribe to Rukupo. It is possible then, that the house was a memorial to a deceased rangatira (Kernot 1984:151). 1 Whether the building was intended as a regional meeting house or a residence is again unclear. Tareha claimed that it accommodated an inter-tribal forum on the effects of Christianity, but Simmons has insisted that it was too small to be anything but a chief's house (Simmons 1984:107). The suggestion that the house symbolised a union between iwi is given some credence by the whakapapa expert Rongowhakata Halbert. In 1942, he identified 29 tipuna depicted in carvings around the house as direct descendants of Rongowhakata, the eponymous ancestor of Rukupo's tribe, and located another six in Ngati Kahungunu whakapapa, possibly indicating a political alliance between the two iwi (Phillipps 1944:92). In this instance, the construction of Te Hau ki Turanga may have been a solidification of an earlier inter-tribal agreement. Despite colonisation, similar projects have generally encouraged inter-hapū artistic, social and economic collaboration (Kernot 1984:144). Although there is no consensus on the conventional function of Te Hau ki Turanga, Kernot believes that as a carved house it would have represented the mana of Rukupo's family and, by extension, his tribe.

The impact of missionary teaching on the Rongowhakata carvers is clearly evident in their employment of text within Te Hau ki Turanga, which complements older pre-Pakeha methods of identification. In his letter, Biggs also lists the names of 18 other men who he claims assisted Rukupo with the carvings for the house. 2 Almost all the names are those of biblical personalities - even Raharuhi, which is the Maori form of ‘Lazarus’. While the use of christian names makes the carvers' identification within the Rongowhakata difficult, it indicates that by 1868 most of the rangatira of this tribe had been baptised. 3 The Anglican church at Turanga was established in 1840 by the Reverend William Williams, who, in his diaries, records that from 1843 Rukupo was acting as a lay-teacher for the mission (Porter 1974:268). With Christianity came literacy, a skill demonstrated in the construction of Te Hau ki Turanga by Rukupo and his craftsmen, who inscribed the names of 69 ancestors beneath their carved representations in the Roman script style popularised by the Maori Bible (Barrow 1976:21). The consistent occur- - 11 rence of senior ancestors around the house is not in accordance with modern theories relating to a relative hierarchy of position when moving down or across the house. However, through his knowledge of genealogy, Tareha was able to identify the lower and larger figures depicted on the wall slabs as the fathers of the upper figures. Most interestingly, since he was the only ancestor portrayed who was alive at the time of construction, the figure on the front gable-supporting pillar within the house is that of Rukupo himself (Te Moananui 1868; Barrow 1976:20). While more naturalistic in shape when compared to the poupou, Roger Neich maintains that Rukupo's self-portrait still adheres to Rongowhakata's pre-Pakeha carving conventions (Kernot 1984:154). 4 The toki-pou-tangata in his right hand represents his rangatiratanga; the moko on his face indicates that he was fully tattooed in accordance with his rank. In examining the mixture of Maori and Pakeha identification devices within Te Hau ki Turanga, it becomes apparent that the carvers applied the teachings of the missionaries to more than their personal lives, using literacy for a uniquely Maori purpose.

The design methods used in the house indicate further appropriations from Pakeha culture. Although there does not appear to have been any relationship between facing ancestor wall carvings inside Te Hau ki Turanga, Neich has shown that there is a reflected symmetry among opposing kōwhaiwhai painted rafters (Neich 1993:48). In eighteenth century Poverty Bay, where reflected compositions were not unknown in kōwhaiwhai painted paddles, the ability to reflect such complex patterns on rafters suggests the use of templates, which were probably made with Pakeha materials. This method of transferral would have placed an increasing emphasis on outline and, in turn, the use of Pakeha drawing tools, according to Neich (Neich 1993:72). In 1842, Williams recorded that chalk was being used by one of Rukupo's carvers to sketch out the Manutuke church carvings, hence it is plausible that Pakeha drawing utensils, and possibly templates made of imported material, were also used in the contemporaneous construction of Te Hau ki Turanga (Porter 1974:537). 5 If this is the case, the kōwhaiwhai of the latter building was innovative, a point reinforced by Neich, who was not able to find any references to kōwhaiwhai painted rafters in Maori architecture before Rukupo's house (Neich 1993:74).

From this discussion it would appear that while Rukupo was trained in a pre-Pakeha system of carving, he and his carvers readily borrowed new ideas from other tribes, religions and cultures. This is apparent in:the function of Te Hau ki Turanga as a forum for inter-hapū and possibly inter-tribal discussions; the literal identification of ancestors around the house; the execution and composition of painted designs within the building. By appropriating these imported influences into his architecture, Rukupo was - 12 staking a claim for the Rongowhakata people, both living and dead, in the new world of Western knowledge.


In 1867, Te Hau ki Turanga was moved from Orakaiapu Pa to Wellington by James Richmond and Reginald Biggs. The events surrounding its withdrawal are difficult to decipher, largely because accounts of the transferral are based on affidavits presented by Richmond and Biggs to a Commission of Inquiry established in response to complaints from Rukupo and his family. The judgement of the Commission is not available, but it was unlikely to have been in favour of Rukupo, especially as another inquiry was held by the Native Affairs Committee in 1878, after a petition from Wi Pere. At this stage, it should be made clear that Biggs's connection to Te Hau ki Turanga reaches beyond his dismantling of the house. Only ten weeks after writing the history of the house for the Commission, Biggs was killed during Te Kooti's raid on Matawhero, possibly in retribution for killing Raharuhi Rukupo's protégé, Pita Tamaturi. Judith Binney has claimed that Biggs was beaten with a special club, ‘Tawatahi’, crafted by the Turanga carvers and presented to Te Kooti for the specific purpose of utu (Binney 1990:29). The irony is that the man who removed Te Hau ki Turanga was himself removed by another piece of Rongowhakata carving art. Since the second account of Te Hau ki Turanga's early history was written by Tareha in the same year that the Inquiry was held, it is important to remember that he was identified by Richmond as the ‘owner’ of the house. Therefore, both histories are a retort to the alleged injustice of Te Hau ki Turanga's removal.

The 1868 Commission of Inquiry sought to establish whether the removal of the house could be morally or legally justified. It opened with the statement that Rukupo's tribal lands were about to be confiscated by the end of the 1866 East Coast campaigns of the New Zealand Wars. 6 James Crowe Richmond, the Minister of Customs, told the Inquiry that he had gone to Gisborne in 1867 to offer a reprieve to Rongowhakata in return for loyalty (Barrow 1976:9). It was during this visit that he saw Te Hau ki Turanga and, as he claimed, arranged to have it removed. In his statement, he wrote that the house appeared to him as:

.. a heap looking like the straw from a thrashing machine half rotten …. On examining I found it to be a singular and very fine specimen of Native work but I observed with regret that it was utterly neglected. The porch denied of its smaller carvings the roof defective in many places the carved Heads which formed the sides rotten where they were slightly fixed in the ground. I ascertained that Rahurui (Lazarus) the first in order of the Petitioners and a leading Rebel in the Poverty Bay District was recognised as representing - 13 the owners. I spoke to him of the beauty of the house and the pride with which Maoris should look upon it. I proposed to take it to Wellington and restore it and asked his consent. His reply was that he was ‘dead’ the property had gone from him and referred me to Tariha [sic] of Hawkes Bay as the person to whom he had given the house.

It appears that before going into rebellion he had given it in writing to that Chief. I said no more to him privately but announced my wish to take the house and preserve it, at a large meeting of 300 or 400 people next day - but only one man objected. 7 (Richmond 1867:15-6)

From this statement it appears that Richmond's main concern was for the mortality of the decaying house. Leo Fowler wrote that the neglected appearance of Te Hau ki Turanga was a result of its dismantling following the death of Tamati Waka Mangere, although this is difficult to prove since there are no records of his death. However, if this were the case, as Fowler has assumed, the house still would have belonged to Rukupo. In contradiction to Richmond's statement of an agreement between himself and Rukupo, conversations between Fowler and the rangatira's descendants have revealed that the Turanga leader viewed the removal of the house as a summary confiscation (Fowler 1974:8). Tareha, whom Richmond described as the owner of Te Hau ki Turanga, also claimed, in his address to the Institute, that the house was confiscated, although it is unclear whether he himself fought against the Crown and was therefore the one being punished. Therefore a conflict of opinion remains as to whether Te Hau ki Turanga's removal was an act of retribution or compassion.

Since Rukupo's changing allegiances were well documented, any possible grounds for Te Hau ki Turanga's confiscation could not have been certain. History suggests that as a leader he always followed the most favourable course for his people. For example, as spokesman for the Manutuke people in the early 1850s, he was vocal in his opposition to the establishment of a Pakeha township on Maori land (Fowler 1974:9). But in that same decade, at Donald McLean's request, he persuaded Te Waka Perohuka not to drive Pakeha settlers out of Rongowhakata territory. By the time of the New Zealand Wars in the 1860s, his conciliatory position toward the Pakeha and their institutions had changed again, when he announced to Governor Gore-Brown that as a non-signatory of the Treaty he was exempt from his rule (Barrow 1976:7-8; Oliver 1990:341). This anti-government sentiment did not necessarily imply that he supported the Pai Marire campaign against the Pakeha. Te Kani Te Ua has claimed that Rukupo's only son was killed while fighting with the loyalists during the Wars, and Robert Hall records that he was given a part share in a Gisborne town section in recognition of his loyalty to the Crown during the conflict (Hall n.d.:7 in - 14 Kernot 1984:154; Fowler 1974:6). In summary, then, it is not clear if the government had any justification for confiscating Te Hau ki Turanga.

If, as Richmond insisted, the house was not confiscated, there is even more uncertainty about whether permission for the removal of the house was given by the appropriate people, or in fact given at all. Fowler believes that the ‘300 or 400 people’ that gave their almost unanimous approval to Richmond, were in fact loyalist Ngati Porou troops garrisoned in Manutuke by Reginald Biggs. Rukupo's descendants' diaries and verbal accounts reveal that the meeting was not representative of their tribe (Fowler 1974:7-8). Richmond said at the Inquiry that he had asked Biggs to continue negotiations for the purchase of the house. Biggs in turn organised with James Fairchild, the captain of a government steamer in the area, to have the the house uplifted on behalf of the Crown. In 1878, Fairchild told the Native Affairs Committee that while attempting to dismantle Te Hau ki Turanga he was confronted by a group of Maori who questioned his right to remove the house. He offered them £100, which was paid by Biggs. However the objections continued and the house had to be removed by force (Fairchild 1878:590-3). Contradicting Richmond's earlier statement, Fairchild also claimed that the house was in good condition. Under examination, Fairchild conceded that he had unsuccessfully attempted to buy Te Hau ki Turanga three years before for £300, adding that he could have sold the building for up to £1000 in London. Fowler has shown that Samuel Locke, a Crown land purchasing officer, also tried to buy the house two years before (Fowler 1974:7). As the house was in high demand, it seems unlikely that the original caretakers of Te Hau ki Turanga would have settled for the £100 Biggs claimed to have given them. To the chairman's question that the money might have been paid to the ‘wrong’ people, Fairchild concluded his submission to the Native Affairs Committee by reply-ing that neither he, nor Biggs, knew who the ‘right’ people were (Fairchild 1878:595-6).

Wi Pere' s 1878 petition for compensation relating to Te Hau ki Turanga's removal indicates that Rongowhakata may have been misled by Fairchild's offer. In support of the claim, Wi Pere's sister, Mrs Wyllie, told the Native Affairs Committee that government troops dismantled the house while its occupiers had sought refuge elsewhere. When Mrs. Wyllie's family, who were living in Turanga in 1867, tried to persuade the officers not to continue, an offer of £100 was made to her uncle with the promise of further payment. Despite a verbal request to Donald McLean for the remainder of the money, it was never received. Under examination, Mrs Wyllie said that Sir George Grey had offered £400 for the house and that the hapū now believed that Te Hau ki Turanga had been ‘stolen’ by the government to prevent its acquisition by Grey (Wyllie 1878:572-80). To the remark by the chairman that the - 15 house may have been destroyed during the Wars, Mrs Wyllie replied that Te Hau ki Turanga was the only building in Turanga that was not left standing (Wyllie 1878:587). When Wi Pere and his supporters petitioned the government for compensation, they had already decided to apply for a settlement of £700, their estimate of Te Hau ki Turanga's value (Wyllie 1878:586). On 26th October 1878, it was announced that the Committee had found the payment of £100 to have been inadequate and that a further £300 should be made to the ‘owners’ of the house when it could be ascertained who they were (Petition of Wi Pere 1878:23). It is not apparent if this money was ever paid.

With or without compensation, Fowler has claimed that Rukupo never forgave the government for taking Te Hau ki Turanga, illustrating his consequent distrust of Pakeha in the construction of a new, radically different house called Te Mana o Turanga built on Whakato marae (Kernot 1984:155). From 1865 to his death in 1873, Rukupo worked on a group of carvings that were included in the house which was opened in 1883 (‘Historic Sites’ p. 2; Fowler 1974:3). Fowler has been adamant that Rukupo's bitter experience of Pakeha politics and religion, following Te Hau ki Turanga's removal, was represented in the innovative design methodology used to construct Te Mana o Turanga. Whereas the earlier house is an embodiment of tribal pride and relations, the second is a ‘re-assertion of mana’ following the Wars. Te Mana o Turanga is, according to Fowler's informants, ‘a record of the whole and continuous story of the history and traditions of the local tribe, from creation to the present time’ (Fowler 1974:3). Represented alongside tribal ancestors are culture heros who embody a new pan-tribal collective Maori past, united - and not divided - against colonisation. There is an increased use of text and naturalistic illustration as Rukupo attempts to capture the attention of the new generation Christian-influenced Maori (Fowler 1974:9). Some of the celestial motifs painted on the house derive from the anti-loyalist symbolism used on Kingitanga flags and Te Kooti's houses. By appropriating these emblems of resistance into their architecture, Rukupo and his people demonstrated that were not going to make any more concessions to the government.


In 1867, a collection of carvings labelled Te Hau ki Turanga arrived at the Dominion Museum in Wellington. They were arranged around a frame inside the ‘Maori Hall’ which contained other carved and painted objects.

The concept of building museums originated in sixteenth century Europe, where special cabinets of curiosity contained classical antiquities and, later, ethnographic material, to induce observers into thinking that European technology was on a par with, if not greater than, that of any other culture. 8 - 16 By the eighteenth century, some of these collections of muses were so large that they were housed in museums, public municipal buildings erected in the classical style, artefacts themselves of the middle-class fascination with Greek and Roman secular city states (Slotkin 1865:x in Impey and MacGregor 1987:223). With the application of classical models of science, these muses were classified into inter-related categories, which social-Darwinism popularly re-arranged into hierarchies of relative importance (Sorrenson 1977:449). As a consequence, Victorian museums structured their ethnographic artefacts according to the relative material economy of the cultures from which they derived. In this scenario, Western knowledge dominated all other modes of thinking, and colonisation could be appreciated as a form of ‘civilisation’. 9 This was the context in which Te Hau ki Turanga was classified.

Inside the Dominion museum and away from Turanga, for a time Rukupo' s house ceased to exist as a Maori entity, and instead became part of New Zealand's colonial history. To become an artifact in another culture's heritage required a contextual change, in this case from tūrangawaewae to classification. Classical methods of typology reduced Te Hau ki Turanga to a set of elements that could be interchanged with other buildings (for example a new paepae from the 1907 Christchurch exhibition) or added to, as seen in the School of Maori Arts and Craft's renovation under Sir Apirana Ngata during the 1930s. Through its presentation within the museum, Te Hau ki Turanga was the yard-stick from which Pakeha could measure changes in Maori culture, changes based on colonial concepts of ‘tradition’. Hence, in this context, Te Hau ki Turanga spoke more of the insecurities of colonial middle-class industrial life than Maori architecture.


Ironically, Te Hau ki Turanga returned to a somewhat elevated, if not modified, status within Maori culture when it became the ‘model’ for Sir Apirana Ngata's re-invention of the Maori meeting house. As Minister of Parliament for Eastern Maori and Minister of Native Affairs, Ngata was attempting to restructure Maori society as a rural proletariat who could co-operatively farm their land on a tribal basis. The modern Maori meeting house was central to his agenda because it provided a focal point for these communities and demonstrated the distinct identity of Maori - which, in part, relied on the racial classifications imposed by ethnography and museums. 10 His emphasis on the scientific distinctions between ‘races’ was central to his anti-assimilationist political programme (Ngata to Buck, 17th June 1929, Sorrenson 1986: v. 1:210).

In order to understand Ngata's reverence for Te Hau ki Turanga it is

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Tukutuku panels for Te Hau ki Turanga, under construction by the School of Maori Arts and Crafts, Wellington, February 1936 (J. T. Salmond, MONZ reg. no. B5368)
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necessary to acknowledge his wider architectural programme. It was not until he attempted to commission a carver to decorate his residence in 1916 that Ngata's attention was drawn to the decline in the practice of Maori carving and tukutuku. He discovered that there were only three living tohunga whakairo in his local area - Hone Ngatoto, another Ngati Porou carver on the East Coast, and one in the Urewera region (Ngata to Buck, 17th August 1935, Sorrenson 1986: v. 1:193). This provoked Ngata into lobbying the government for a state -funded school of Maori arts and crafts which would produce the ‘carvings, reed panels, and painted rafters [that] may be used in halls and lounges or in drawing-rooms or in some of our public and municipal buildings’ as symbols of national identity (Williams and Ngata 1926: MA 51 2.14a). But, from the outset, Ngata knew that the revival of the carved meeting house would assist in his land development schemes as a focus for tribal rural living. His request was eventually approved in 1926. Two years later, the School was established at Rotorua, the home of the Ngati Tarawhai carver Eramiha Kapua, who had agreed to become a tutor (Neich 1993:118). Although Ngata was not the appointed director of the School, he was its effective head. He guided the pupils towards an almost scientific approach to carving, where museum models pre-dating the New Zealand Wars were classified into regional types and copied in the hope that the techniques of the past masters would be instilled in them (Ngata to Buck, 22nd May 1930, 17th August 1935, Sorrenson 1986: v. 2:21, 192). 11 He firmly believed that once these skills were recovered, the carvers could develop their own personal styles, and be employed by tribal groups with profits from farming operations (Ngata to Buck, 17th March 1934, Sorrenson 1986: v. 3:138). The success of Ngata's modern Maori meeting houses and dining halls can be measured by the number of commissions the School received. Between 1927 and 1948, the School was involved in 37 architectural projects.

Te Hau ki Turanga's journey back into Maori society began when Sir Apirana Ngata and the School of Maori Arts and Crafts became involved in its renovation during the museum's relocation to Buckle Street in the 1930s. However, the house was not replaced into the context in which buildings such as Te Mana o Turanga had developed. Instead Te Hau ki Turanga became an artefact of Ngata's Maori renaissance - its status as the oldest museum piece of its kind largely underpining its recognition as a ‘traditional’ Maori meeting house.

The Museum originally intended to hire a Mrs. Haketa to replace Te Hau ki Turanga's tukutuku; however, on hearing about the project, Sir Apirana Ngata instructed the Museum that she was not familiar with the Turanga style, and instead offered the services of the School of Maori Arts and Crafts - 19 (Director of Dominion Museum 1935). His proposal was accepted, and Ngata began to study examples of nineteenth century East Coast tukutuku held by the Museum. He selected nine patterns, which he regarded as ‘traditional’ examples of the Turanga style, to be reproduced in 48 panels. The work was undertaken at Wellington, in a specially constructed shed, by Mrs. Heketa, her daughter, and six Otaki women who had previously been employed by the School on the Raukawa meeting house project (Barrow 1976:24). They began the project and continued until January 1936, when Parliament came back into session, so that Ngata could provide supervision. Conscious of the use of commercially dyed tukutuku materials in late nineteenth century meeting houses, and their association with anti-loyalist movements such as Ringatu, Ngata was careful to follow pre-1860s precedents in the colouring of the pīngao and kiekie by using black, white and yellow pigments (Evening Post 1936). Nevertheless, he was acting in a distinctly modern fashion when he seconded a group of unemployed Maori, through the Maori Purposes Fund Board, to collect pīngao, kiekie, kākaho, and toetoe for the tukutuku and house lining (Ngata, 14th September 1935). Hence, while maintaining that the tukutuku were representative of pre-Pakeha Maori architecture and therefore ‘traditional’, Ngata used museum inspired classification systems to eliminate references to the New Zealand Wars or confiscation. By ‘returning’ to an idealised past, Ngata removed Te Hau ki Turanga from New Zealand's history of conflict, and made the house a symbol of the new, but traditional, united Maori society.

Although Ngata took care to re-construct a pre-1860s history for the house, he was not above trying to apply European-based interpretations of proportion to Te Hau ki Turanga in order to make it suit modern tastes. In October 1935, while making measurements for the new tukutuku panels, Ngata became concerned about the proportions of the house. He complained that ‘the panel spaces appear wide in relation to the carvings … the impression of squatness is emphasised by the width of both carvings and panels’ (Ngata, 29th October 1935). To reduce the size of the individual tukutuku panels, he decided to introduce two new carved wall slabs, with corresponding painted rafters, along each side of the house; he also advocated the replacement of four missing porch wall slabs, bringing to eight the number of new carvings needed. While these measures reduced the width of the new tukutuku panels, when compared to the original skirting boards, they were still larger than Rukupo's tukutuku. 12 Therefore it appears that Ngata aimed to fill the void inside the concrete enclosure rather than remain faithful to Rukupo's original design (Ngata, 29th October 1935). 13

Ngata's concern for the material condition of Te Hau ki Turanga eventually extended its carvings. He noted that the original ridge-pole - the - 20 metaphorical back-bone of the house - had been divided into four-pieces, and so arranged for it to be replaced with a continuous piece of timber from Tokaanu (Director of Dominion Museum, 24th August, 1935; 10th June 1936). Believing that the carvings would have to be executed in the style of Rukupo, he recommended that the museum commission the carvers of the School of Arts and Crafts to carry out the work. Six carvers from the School, under the direct instruction of Pine Taiapa, worked on the new wall slabs (‘Te Hau Ki Turanga’, c. 1993; Barrow 1976:31). 14 That the School was more interested in reinterpreting the carving ‘style’ of the Rongowhakata in modern materials, rather than recreating its original construction, is evident in their treatment of the rafters. Barrow contrasts the old interior hand-dressed rafters, which were thick enough for raised images to be carved into their ends, with the machine milled boards of the porch erected by the School where similar images were separate attachments (Barrow 1976:18). In this instance, it appears that the School's definition of ‘tradition’ was style driven and not based on a faithful reconstruction of the past.

The School's stylistic approach to the renovation contrasted with work carried out, on the same project, by the Museum's resident carver, Thomas Herberly. In conjunction with the School, Herberly repainted the kōwhaiwhai and carved a new gable head, door lintel, window pieces and bargeboards for Te Hau ki Turanga. He had been employed by the Museum as a restorer of Maori carving since 1926, and had worked once before with the School on the Otaki meeting house (Director of Dominion Museum, 10th June 1936; Ngata, 29th October 1935). During his youth, Thomas had been instructed to carve by his uncle, Jacob Heberley, a self-taught carver who took private commissions from mostly Pakeha patrons. Both men were chisel carvers, and hence Heberley junior's pieces lacked the depth displayed by the adze carvers of the School (Ngata to Buck, 11th June 1933, Sorrenson 1986: v. 3:88). Despite this difference, Thomas' s work for Te Hau ki Turanga is more like the original chisel-carved wall slabs, since he was careful to model the new barge-boards on those carved by Rukupo's apprentice, Natanahira Te Keteiwi, for the Poho o Rawiri house of Gisborne (Neich 1991:69, 135-7). Whether or not it was important to maintain the Turanga style in these smaller carvings is debatable, since there is no evidence to suggest that these elements were originally carved. Therefore, the distinctions between the carving work of Rukupo, Heberley and the School of Arts and Crafts can be attributed to their differing technical and ideological backgrounds. 15

In April 1936, a skeleton frame, designed so as to fit the concrete enclosure, was erected within the shed. The new tukutuku panels and original wall slabs were mounted on the frame so that measurements for the new carved panels and rafters could be taken. The frame and attached pieces were - 21 transported to the Museum and fitted into the concrete enclosure, where a carpenter and three tukutuku workers lined the porch with raupō and kākaho thatch (Director of Dominion Museum, 2nd March 1936; 24th April 1936; 1939). 16 According to W. J. Phillipps, who had been an ethnologist at the Dominion Museum, the original wall slabs were too tall to fit along the enclosure, so the Department of Public Works cut off their bases (Barrow 1976:21). The discarded sections included the inscribed names of the depicted ancestors, so their removal deleted Te Hau ki Turanga's most obvious historical reference. Whether or not this was a deliberate oversight on Ngata's part is unclear, but with the removal of this missionary influence, his efforts to place Te Hau ki Turanga in a pre-colonial past were certainly enhanced.

The restoration of Te Hau ki Turanga, undertaken by Ngata and the School of Maori Arts and Crafts, demonstrates the subjective uses of Western scientific knowledge. By classifying Rukupo's work as a ‘style’ or a ‘tradition’, rather than the spoils of confiscation or the product of a whare wānanga, Ngata was able to reconcile Maori culture with Pakeha colonisation. This was part of Ngata's greater aim of using Maori ‘material culture’ as a means to unite the tribes and hold onto the land without conflicting with the government. Through Ngata's work the house, which he described as ‘the finest flowering of Maori art’, became the stylistic prototype of many of the School's later projects for at least three reasons (‘Te Hau Ki Turanga’, c. 1993). Firstly, he believed that woodcarving was at its stylistic peak at the time of Cook's arrival in the Turanga district (Ngata to Buck, 20th September 1935, Sorrenson 1986: v. 3:201; Ngata 1958:37). Therefore, he argued, the essential principles of Maori carving could be found in Rukupo's work. Secondly, he may have thought that the work of later carving schools was ‘debased’ by Pakeha ideas. Yet, Rukupo's architecture also used Pakeha technology and Anglican ideas - a sentiment which may have appealed to Ngata's Church of England background. Ngata might have believed that later extant houses, such as Rukupo's Te Mana o Turanga, were unsuitable models for state-funded development schemes because they displayed antiloyalist symbolism (Neich 1993:241). The construction of Te Hau ki Turanga, however, pre-dated the Wars and offered some degree of political safety as a model for future buildings. Thirdly, he might have thought that, as a model, the decontextualisation of the house within the Museum could help him achieve his goals. Removed from its tūrangawaewae, and hence its political and historical associations, Ngata may have believed that this house was inviolable and capable of simulation on any piece of ground, at any time and for any purpose. On examination then, Ngata's personal appreciation of Te Hau ki Turanga went far beyond any perceived stylistic appeal, and was - 22 founded on its archaeological value, historical significance, and its decontextualised cultural worth.


This history of Te Hau ki Turanga highlights the ambiguities faced when attempting to study a Maori building within a Western context. Rukupo is dead, and after nearly 130 years away from its marae the house can no longer speak through a tangata whenua. Te Hau ki Turanga's Maori history is lost. Its written history is influenced by indirect events, such as theological and judicial judgements, the so called ‘truth’ of Western tradition. Criticism, of past histories of the house, itself falls victim to the biased nature of European thought. As the anthropologists Michael Goldsmith and Keith Barber have suggested ‘it may be that the tradition has captured people's imaginations because of current theoretical concerns with discontinuity, as opposed to the assumptions of continuity in modernist “master-narratives”’ (Barber and Goldsmith 1992:3). It appears that Ngata was able to appreciate Te Hau ki Turanga's decontextualisation and, not only recognise a European master narrative into which he could place Maori culture, but also take advantage of an opportunity to create a Maori grand narrative. After a 70-year absence, Rukupo's house was reunited with Maori culture, albeit for a very different purpose within a radically changed society from which it was wrested. At present the Museum of New Zealand is trying to reverse past history and, rather than dominate the meeting house, speak through Rukupo's taonga in the new museum complex. It remains to be seen if the two architectures, and their differing systems of knowledge, can operate in symbiosis.

- 23 Page of endnotes

- 24
  • Acting-Director of Dominion Museum, 21st May 1936. Letter to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • Asad, Tadal, 1991. From the History of Colonial Anthropology …, in George Stocking (ed.), Colonial Situations. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, pp 314-24.
  • Barber, Keith, and Michael Goldsmith (eds), 1992. Other Sites. Palmerston North: Massey University.
  • Barrow, Terrence, 1976. A Guide to the Maori Meeting House Te Hau-ki-Turanga. Wellington: National Museum.
  • Bell, Leonard, 1993. Colonial Constructs. Auckland: Auckland University Press.
  • Best, Elsdon, 1923. The Maori School of Learning. Wellington: Dominion Museum Monograph. 6.
  • Biggs, Reginald, 27th August 1868. Letter to Under-Secretary of the Native Office, manuscript papers, Museum of New Zealand; in Barrow 1976.
  • Binney, Judith, 1990. Reginald Biggs, in W. H. Oliver (ed.), The Dictionary of New
- 25
  • Zealand Biography. 1. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs, pp.29-30.
  • Clarke, H. T., 21st October 1878. Petition of no.291, Native Affairs Committee, Le 1/1878/6, Raupatu Document Bank. 2, pp. 560-70.
  • Coates, J. G., 20th June 1927. Letter to G. L. Stanbrook, Chief of Staff, Sun Newspapers, Maori Affairs Papers (MA) 51 2.14a, National Archives.
  • Director of Dominion Museum, 24th August 1935. Letter to Under Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • —— 30th January 1936. Letter to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • —— 2nd March 1936. Proposed letter to the Native Department, in letter to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • —— 24th April 1936. Letter to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • —— 10th June 1936. Letter to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • —— 3rd May 1939. Letter to Secretary of Board of Trustees, National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • Evening Post, 18th February 1936. An Ancient Art - Panels for Maori House: Women at Work. Wellington.
  • Fairchild, James, 22nd October 1878. Native Affairs Committee, Le 1/1878/6, Raupatu Document Bank. 2, pp. 589-602.
  • Fowler, Leo, 1974. Te Mana o Turanga. Auckland: New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
  • Hall, Robert, n.d. [unpublished typescript], Te Hau ki Turanga. Museum of New Zealand; in Kernot 1984:154.
  • ‘Historic Sites of New Zealand: 30th Centennial of Manutuke School’, n.d. [Unpublished manuscript], in Historic Places Trust Marae Buildings Record Form, file reference 8/17/4, record no. 0193.
  • Impey, Oliver and Arthur MacGregor, 1987. The Origins of Museums. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Kernot, Bernie, 1984. Maori Artists of Time Before, in S. M. Mead (ed.), Te Maori. Auckland: Heinemann, pp. 138-55.
  • Ngata, Apirana, 14th September 1935. Letter to Hon. Minister of Internal Affairs Department, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • —— 29th October 1935. Letter to Oliver (Director of the Dominion Museum), Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
- 26
  • —— 1958. The Origin of Maori Carving. Te Ao Hou, 22:30-7.
  • Neich, Roger, 1990-1. The Carving Art of Tene Waitere. Art New Zealand, 57:73-9.
  • —— 1991. Jacob William Heberley. Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum, 28,:69-146.
  • —— 1993. Painted Histories, Auckland: Auckland University Press.
  • Oliver, Steven, 1990. Te Waaka Perohuka, in W. H. Oliver (ed.), Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. 1. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs, pp.340-1.
  • Orange, Claudia, 1987. The Treaty of Waitangi. Wellington: Allen and Unwin.
  • Phillipps, W. J., 1944. Carved Houses of the Eastern District of the North Island. Records of the Dominion Museum, 1 (2):69-119.
  • Porter, F. (ed.), 1974. The Turanga Journals. Wellington: Price Milburn.
  • Richmond, J. C., 14th August 1867. Letter, Le 1/1867/13, petitions, Raupatu Document Bank. 1, pp. 14-16.
  • Simmons, David, 1984. Tribal Art Styles, in S. M. Mead (ed.), Te Maori. Auckland: Heinemann, pp. 76-108.
  • Slotkin, J. S. (ed.), 1865. Readings in Anthropology. London; in Impey and MacGregor.
  • Smith, S. Percy, 1899. The Tohunga Maori. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, 32:253-70.
  • Sorrenson, M. P. K., 1977. The Whence of the Maori: Some Nineteenth Century Exercises in Scientific Method. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 86:449-78.
  • —— (ed.), 1986-8. Na To Hoa Aroha - From Your dear Friend: The Correspondence between Sir Apirana Ngata and Sir Peter Buck, 1925-50. 3 v., Auckland: Auckland University Press.
  • ‘Te Hau Ki Turanga’, c. 1993. [brochure], Wellington: Museum of New Zealand.
  • Te Moananui, Tareha, 1868. Description of the Maori House at the Colonial Museum. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, 1:445-6.
  • Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, 7th October 1937. Letter to Director of Dominion Museum, Te Hau Ki Turanga Meeting House file, Department Of Internal Affairs, Hector Library, Museum of New Zealand.
  • Williams, Herbert, and Apirana Ngata, 16th August 1926. Letter to the Secretary, Board of Maori Ethnological Research, Maori Affairs Papers (MA) 51 2.14a, National Archives.
  • Wi Pere and others, 26th October 1878. Petition, No. 291, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR). 1878. I-3, p. 23.
  • Wyllie, Mrs., 8th October 1878. Petition of Wi Pere, Native Affairs Committee, Le 1/1878/6, Raupatu Document Bank. 2, pp. 571-88.
1   Claudia Orange records that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in Turanga on 5th May 1840 (1987:62).
2   The carvers included Raharuhi Rukupo's younger brother Pera Tawhiti, and Natanahira Te Keteiwi who would become an accomplished kōwhaiwhai expert (Neich 1993:56).
3   The carvers were: Enoka, Hakaraia Ngapatari, Hamiora te Uarua, Heta Meha, Himiona te Papaapiti, Hirawanu Tukuamiomio, Hone Tiatia, Hopa, Reweti Tauri Tuhura, Mahumahu, Matenga Tamaioria, Matenga te Hore, Natana Hira Toromata, Paora Rakaiora, Pera Tawhiti [Rukupo's younger brother], Poparae Kemaka, Rawiri Hokeke, Wereta Whakahira (Biggs in Barrow 1976:5-7).
4   As in most of the meeting houses that succeeded Te Hau ki Turanga, Rangi and Papa are depicted on the front of the ridge-pole (Neich 1993:126).
5   Neich writes ‘Unfortunately, the earliest complete set of Poverty Bay kōwhaiwhai, those on the rafters of Te Hau ki Turanga, were over-painted in 1936, making it impossible to now determine whether and how outlines were drawn in.’ (1993:54)
6   Under examination in 1878, H. T. Clarke said he did not believe the land was confiscated (Clarke 1878:4).
7   Richmond sued Rusden over an allegation in his book, The History of New Zealand (published five years after the inquiry), that he had ‘stolen’ the house.
8   See Impey and MacGregor 1987.
9   There is a conflict of opinion amongst some modern observers as to why Victorian museums allowed Western thinking to dominate the display of ethnographic artifacts. For example, in Colonial Constructs Leonard Bell writes ‘the study of indigenous people in colonised territories, the codification of their cultures and the collection of their art and artifacts were often important parts of the programme to dominate and control them’ (1993:6). However, Tadal Asad believes that early ethnographic knowledge, and by association, the display of ethnograhic material in museums, was a vehicle to demonstrate the supposed superiority of Western knowledge to Victorian Europeans and was never a method of colonisation. He writes ‘the role of anthropologists in maintaining structures of imperial domination has, despite slogans to the contrary, usually been trivial; the knowledge they produced was often too esoteric for government use…. But if the role of anthropology for colonialism was relatively unimportant, the reverse proposition does not hold. The process of European global power has been central to the anthropological task of recording and analysing the ways of life of subject populations …’ (1991:314)
10   Most of what will be recounted about the restoration of Te Hau ki Turanga, comes from Sir Apirana Ngata's correspondence with Sir Peter Buck, and his memoranda to the under-secretary of Native Affairs about the procedure of work by the School of Maori Arts and Crafts. Ngata also wrote a number of articles about his architectural and ethnographic philosophies, but these were, in his words, ‘peppered’ with scientific rhetoric to gratify the government which sponsored his programmes, including the Te Hau ki Turanga project (Ngata to Buck, 24 March 1928, Sorrenson 1986: v 1:80). Instead, where possible, information has been taken from his personal correspondence in which he is often disarmingly frank.
11   As a state-funded and academically organised institution, the School departed from the whare wānanga style of teaching that previous tohunga, such as Rukupo, would have received. For example, tukutuku, which at this time identified as a woman's art, was also taught at the School alongside carving. This collaboration disturbed some Maori, who believed that past protocols advocating the separation of sexes should continue to be followed (Coates to Stanbrook, 1927: MA 51 2.14a). However, one tutor, Neke Kapua, who was a staunch member of the Ringatu church and follower of its teachings on tapu, argued that the spiritual laws that once governed the sexual division of labour could never be appreciated within an academic institution and should therefore be disregarded (Neich 1990-1:74-5). The ‘invention of tradition’ is the paradox presented by the School of Maori Arts and Crafts. On the one hand, Ngata aimed to revive the architecture of the Maori past, while on the other, he achieved his goal by using Pakeha scientific methods.
12   The tukutuku workers were: Hopaea Te Hana, Matenga Baker (left before the project was completed), Raiha Wickham, Ngamata Riparata Te Hana, Kura Tahiwi and Ngarangi Pukuhu Paipa. (Ngata, 14th September 1935; Director of Dominion Museum, 30th January 1936; Acting-Director of Dominion Museum, 1936)
13   Despite his desire to emulate past styles of carving, painting and weaving, Ngata felt much less constricted spatially. He realised that for popular interest in the meeting house to be revived, its basic form had to be adapted to suit modern needs and interests. For example, while the carvings of the School's Te Poho o Rawiri house followed Rukupo's Turanga style, the plan was more in keeping with that of a modern dance hall.
14   The carvers were: Pine Taiapa, W. Te Pau, H. Taka, T. Takoko, C. Tuarau and H. Mokaraka. C. I. Tuarau went on to become the contemporary carver at the Museum in 1948 (Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs Department, 1937).
15   According to Hone Taiapa, Ngata told the him that the Museum had, at one stage, sold the Hau ki Turanga carvings to a Mr. Neilson who intended to take them to England. The carvings were stored in a wharf shed, when Neilson died suddenly. Ngata contacted Neilson's sister to ask what she intended to do with the carvings, and she requested that they be returned to the Museum. That he had managed to keep the original carvings in New Zealand was always a source of pride for Ngata (Fowler 1974:8).
16   Mr. Bevan was the carpenter, and Mrs. Pirihira Heketa, Mrs Mary Taiapa, and Mrs Rangi Ruru were the tukutuku workers.