The tomokanga of Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui

Whakairo in the General Library

Rārangi maunga tū te ao, tū te pō; rārangi tāngata ka ngaro, ka ngaro
A range of mountains stands day in and day out, but a line of people is lost, is lost

The whakairo (carving) and tukutuku (lattice work) panels in the entranceway to the General Library ensure a permanent and assertive cultural presence, like the range of mountains referred to in the whakataukī (poem/proverb) above.

Robert Sullivan, the Kaiwhakahaere Māori me Moananui-a-Kiwa, requested the commission of the whakairo and tukutuku. The late Alice Pihema of Ngāti Whātua and Te Hemoata Henare, wife of the late Erima Henare agreed to weave the tukutuku panels for the project. The tukutuku panel patterns include the purapurawhetū (stars to acknowledge the ancestors); maunga (to acknowledge the mountains of Tāmaki Makaurau); poutama (to acknowledge the educational sphere); and Te Ao Hurihui i te Ao Tawhito (to acknowledge contemporary and traditional worlds).

Tim Codyre who learnt his art from the tohunga whakairo (master carver) Allan Nopera carved the pou. Each pou represents a different era or epoch of Tāmaki Makaurau history in relation to tangata whenua, the land and the University. The suggested eras/epochs discussed:

  • Pre Ngāti Whātua – emphasis placed on the depiction of land, landforms representing Tāmaki Makaurau.
  • Arrival of Ngāti Whātua – ideas around the prophecy “He aha te hau” by Titahi, a matakite (prophet), as well as the relationships between Ngāti Whātua and the Crown and establishment of Auckland City, or the gifting of land for the establishment of the city.
  • Present day – depiction of various cultures within Tāmaki and the University, a figurehead from the University’s history, relationships of the University.
  • Future looking forward – University in the future, presentation of old values in new ways.


Images: Details of the Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui (General Library) whakairo and tukutuku panels (2017).

Bernard Makoare of Ngāti Whātua, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi carved the pare which reflects Ngāti Whātua mana whenua and the tāhuhu with kowhaiwhai patterns which links the current placing of the pou whakairo and tukutuku panels with the Mātauranga Māori collection.

The future vision of the library Te Tumu Herenga espouses Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a foundation. The whakairo and tukutuku hold to the knowledge of the past and navigate into the future, depicting the historical landmarks and the surrounding environment. The overall kaupapa (proposal) of the whakairo and tukutuku was to create an inviting and warm space, a welcoming place whilst maintaining a strong connection with the University marae through the stories told in the carvings.

E kore e mutu ngā mihi ki a rātou kua wehe atu, ki a rātou hoki o te ao turoa nei. Nā rātou te rourou, nā tātou te rourou, ka ora ai ngā iwi o te ao nei. Rātou ki a rātou, tātou ki a tātou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Anahera Morehu, Arts, Māori & Pacific Manager

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