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Kei ngā mātāwaka, kei ngā iwi o Aotearoa

Inā te mahau o tō koutou whare kua whakairohia ki ngā korero a tahito mā o Hawaiki rā anō
Te ūtahitanga mai ki tēnei whenuakura, ko te mauri ka tū, ko te mauri ka noho
Ko tō manawa, ko tōku manawa, ko te manawanui o te haka ka tihe!
Mauriora ki te whai ao, kit e ao mārama
Uhi, wero, tau mai te mauri, haumī e!
Hui e! Tāiki e!

Carving of the mahau began in late 2012 by carvers at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI). The mahau was unveiled in Rotorua at Te Matatini 2013, and has remained a permanent stage fixture at Te Matatini festivals since. With a 30-meter span and standing over 13 meters tall, the mahau, named ‘Te Matatini’, embraces the festival stage and performers with its carvings and korero (narratives) that celebrate our traditions and connectivity to each other and our origins.


The tekoteko, standing tall at the apex of the mahau is Tangaroa, the connecting element for all people of the Pacific. Tangaroa symbolically represents our spiritual and navigational pathways, as well as voyaging and change. He is a connecting force that ties us inextricably to our origins.


Beneath Tangaroa, Ruatepupuke sits like the head of a taiaha, top jaw gaping, issuing a wero (challenge) to performers, judges and spectators alike. Oral histories recall Ruatepupuke’s journey to find his son, Manuhauturuki, who had been made into a tekoteko (gable figure) by Tangaroa. Ruatepupuke entered Tangaroa’s carved house and heard the posts inside talking to one another. The porch panels lacked this power of speech and were the only poupou saved after Rua set fire to the house to avenge his son. He took them home with him, thus introducing whakairo (carving) to the world. Since that day, carvings have sat silently with their carefully enclosed kōrero in order to enable our oral traditions to speak uninterrupted. 


Branching out either side of Ruatepupuke, the maihi (barge boards), each one 20 meters long, represent our stories of migration and diaspora. High on each maihi an uncarved panel, the epiha (shaped in the form of a waka hull) is a place for the unanswerable to go; thus there is a place for all kōrero within the Te Matatini mahau. The maihi feature representations of nature via figurative depictions such as tohorā (whales), and abstract painted forms (pitau-a-manaia), reinforcing the stage front’s message of connectivity and referring specifically to the whakapapa that unites all living things.


The amoamo represent the male and female elements that represent the kōrero out of which the whare tapere emerged; pre-European village ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, games, music and other entertainments. The female side depicts (among others) Hine-te-iwa-iwa, Hine-rua-kata-uri and Hine-rau-kata-mea; the male side depicts Kae, Tinirau and Tuhuruhuru.

Most tribes throughout Aotearoa and indeed the Pacific, have ancient histories relating to the stories of Kae, Tinirau and Tinirau’s mokai or pet whale, Tutunui. As predicated by the presence of Ruatepupuke, the challenge to each one of us is to recall those traditions and keep them alive.


The front of the stage is underpinned by a 30-meter long paepae that illustrates the various styles of Māori wood carving and provides a standing place for all Māori. The styles used are rohe (region) specific, unique languages in their own right, bringing together all faces of Te Matatini and concurrently acknowledging their distinctiveness.

The white eyes that emerge from the black stained carvings literally represent Te Matatini, the many faces.

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