Kahu Ora – Te Whare Pora

In the past, this was a dedicated whare, or house, where aspects of the fine arts of Māori weaving were taught. Today, ‘Te Whare Pora’ is more of a state of mind of an expert senior weaver, who carries or embodies the values, skills and knowledge of this discipline, a most complex, sacred and revered art-form.

The spiritual and conceptual aspects to Māori cloak weaving is an important part of understanding the depth of cultural knowledge expressed in this art-form. Whakapapa, or genealogy; the relationship and connectivity of all living things, is at the heart of Māori culture. Whakapapa is a key concept to Māori, explaining the descent from Atua (the spiritual realms) to elements of nature, and humanity-the intrinsic relationship of all living things.

A version of the origin of weaving is closely linked to the primal parents; Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother. They were separated by their son Tane-nui-a-rangi, who forced them apart so that he and his brothers could be free of the confines between their parents embrace.

Tane then searched the heavens, the realm of his father, for a source of light. He found Hine rauāmoa, the smallest, most fragile star in the sky. Their daughter was Hine-te-iwaiwa, the atua of spiritual deity of weaving, childbirth and cycles of the moon.

Hei tiki on display . On loan from Morgan family. Image copyright to Te Papa.

Hei tiki on display . On loan from Morgan family. Image copyright to Te Papa.

Hine-te-iwaiwa was the first recipient of the hei tiki, from her father Tane. Hei tiki are stylised human forms, usually fashioned from pounamu, worn suspended around the neck. They are precious taonga tuku iho. The meaning of the hei tiki varies. The tiki is said to represent Tiki, the first man. It may also represent Hine-te-iwaiwa, as the deity of childbirth. Both representations relate to conception and progeny.


Wahine poutokomanawa. Image copyright to Te Papa.

Wahine poutokomanawa. Image copyright to Te Papa.


At one side of the entrance to Te Whare Pora stands a female poutokomanawa that represents the essential, vital female element. On the other side is a male poutokomanawa. They represent an ancestral presence that greets the visitor when they enter the exhibition. Both poutokomanawa symbolise the balance between both male and female life producing elements.

Te Whare Pora, as the domain of Hine-te-iwaiwa, connects the physical and spiritual realms of weaving. A special composition for this exhibition, designed by master taonga pūoro player Dr Richard Nunns, and Steve Garden of Rattle Recording, draws together the immersive sounds of weaving in tribute to the weavers of Te Whare Pora. Te Kahureremoa Tiopira Taumata performs the vocals to her composition ‘Te Uri o Hine te iwaiwa’ (the descendants of Hine te iwaiwa).

Come visit Kahu ora and experience the sights and sounds of Māori cloak weaving, an incredible, living artform.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)