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Cultural narratives captured in Te Ara Kahikatea pou

Te Ara Kahikatea blessing group

Te Ara Kahikatea is now home to three striking eight-metre high sculptures, depicting the ancestral stories of the surrounding landscape and its people.

Following the completion of this arterial road link in 2019, the discussion turned to the creation of the pou - based on design concepts put forward by artist Chris Bryant Toi (Ngāti Porou, and descendant of master carver Hoani Ngatai) and incorporating the aspirations of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga kaumātua.

 Chris then led a collaboration of artists to make the vision a reality, with local mana whenua having input into the designs of each pou that contain details reflecting the rich narrative of the area.

One is the Atua, or personification, of Tāne-nui-ā-Rangi, standing sentinel in memory of Tāne-nui-ā-Rangi pā, formerly located on the banks of the Ngaruroro River, opposite the current site of Kohupātiki Marae.

This pā was established by Rangitāne and later occupied by Ngāti Kahungunu, whose chief Rākaihikuroa is attributed with strengthening the pā by digging up Kahikatea trees by their buttressing roots from the nearby Pakiaka Bush, and burying them again in the ground to make palisades around the pā. This pou is located on the corner of Karamū Road and Napier Road.

Another, located on the corner of Te Ara Kahikatea and Whakatū Road, is Pūtoto – associated with volcanic activity and the Atua of igneous rock, and a reminder of the origin of metal ores and how they may behave within an interconnected whānau ecology.

The other is Parawhenuamea, the Atua of sedimentary rock, which also pays homage to Operation Pātiki, an ongoing community restoration project to improve fishery habitats carried out by Kohupātiki Marae. This pou is located on the corner of Te Ara Kahikatea and Pakowhai Road.

“The kaupapa of this project was to research, develop, produce and install a series of contemporary Māori sculptures with native flora and fauna surroundings that express a networking of cultural roots and intergenerational growth associated with the arterial road, Te Ara Kahikatea,” said Chris.

“It’s all about connecting with Mana Atua, cultural beings, Mana Moana, waterways, Mana Whenua, the landscape and Mana Tangata, people.”

A large part of Chris’s work was making concrete casts of wooden carvings of the three large faces that feature on the pou, and the entire project involved input from other Hawke’s Bay artists.

Jacob Scott co-designed the engineering elements and Ricks Terstappen co-developed the fabrication, welding and installation, assisted by Sharleen Gamble.

Bob McElroy from Crafted Concrete, Napier, assisted Chris with the concrete casting, and sculptor Louise Purvis, now based in Auckland, assisted with the fire stick moulds.

The design concepts were based on ongoing consultation with mana whenua who provided advice on design and cultural aspects and the history and narratives of the area.

One of those involved in these discussions was Margie McGuire, from Pakowhai, who said she was thrilled to see the sculptures in place.

“These are signposts for our young people that will help when our young people ask about our stories. They’ve captured the stories – and are another form of recitation and talking about the area.”

The creation of the pou could not have happened without the generous support of the Mills Family Charitable Trust. Established by the Mills Family of Hastings, the trust is committed to advancing arts and culture in Hawke's Bay by making art accessible to the community. 

Trust representative Rachel Joho said the trustees wanted to make special mention of the late Mr McCallum, a former trustee who had been fundamental to the project and its success from inception.  

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the planning of the route of Te Ara Kahikatea was true community collaboration, and the pou were a symbol of how great things can happen when people workd together.

“The efforts of everyone to see this project through to completion, the commitment and dedication, have been commendable.”

18 October 2021

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