"My mind sees that I am nothing, my heart sees that I am everything, between these two poles my life unfolds."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Te Puia


My city tour of Rotorua included a visit to the Te Puia Māori Cultural Institute.


If you click on the photo above, it should expand large enough to be legible.


My personal highlight was the national school of carving located at the centre.


Students study full-time for three years under the tutelage of master carvers, 
who were once Te Puia students themselves.


"Māori believed that the gods created and communicated through the master carvers or tohunga whakairo. Toi whakairo was a tapu art that was subject to the spiritual laws that governed day-to-day traditional Māori life.


Felling a tree was to cut down a descendant of Tane - the god of the forest and of man. Before committing such an act, a karakia or prayer was recited by the tohunga (priest) to ensure that the act of felling one of Tane’s offspring could be carried out safely.


Pieces of wood that fell from carving work were neither thrown away, nor used for cooking. Women were not permitted near carvings. (As a personal aside, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to hear this was a patriarchal society. I've always assumed that most isolated peoples would have less misogyny - and might in fact be egalitarian or even matriarchal by nature.)


In Māori art, carvings emphasise curves rather than the straight lines featured in the work of other Polynesian cultures. The distinctive koru spiral form - inspired by the new growth of the ferns that grow abundantly in New Zealand forests - frequently appears." Source


A few examples of the traditional buildings on display.


Hatu Patu - Wharenui (Meeting House)

Kurungaituku

Hatupatu is an ancestor who, according to oral history, was pursued into this valley by Kurungaituku (Bird Woman). Many of the land features & hotsprings of this area have been named after this ancestor.


This raised hut was where they would have stored their food.

The grounds in and surrounding the Institute were quite picturesque. I was surprised that we were able to freely take pictures of everything, including the interiors of traditional buildings, as I was not permitted to photograph any Maori artifacts when I visited the Rotorua Museum. It was explained by museum staff that the Maori believed photos drained the sacred life force from these items.

28 comments:

  1. The carvings are impressive, and it is good to know that the new students are taught by old, and so the traditions are carried on.
    Interesting their thoughts on photography.

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    1. I totally agree - it's wonderful to think they are taking such an active role towards preserving their heritage.

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  2. These carvings are amazing! They must take forever to complete as there's such a lot of detail that goes into them. I'm also disappointed that women were clearly seen as inferior!Blooming cheek! That last photo is wonderful. Aren't native Americans supposed to feel that way about photographs as well?

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    1. Hi Sulky, Dianne (see below) left a very interesting comment re the subject of the woman's place in this and other 'primitive' societies. Yes, I've also heard that re other cultures as well - not sure which ones.

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    2. Our society is not 'primitive', and as for women being inferior, that is only your interpretation of our culture. There are many facets to our culture that cannot be translated to English language, including the importance of women and sacredness that surrounds our bodies as well as the carvings made by men. Perhaps we need to remember that when visiting other cultures we are usually only shown a surface reflection, the deeper meanings are kept amongst the people who live the cultural life daily, they aren't on display for visitors.

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  3. Wow, beautiful carvings! I really enjoy learning about different cultures (past and present), and it's such a great treat when you get to visit them up close the way you have here. It's too bad about the women. I would have expected it to be different, too. Not to worry...our time is coming. One day women will take over the world...LOL...

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    1. Lol!! Check out my reply to Sulky above.

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    2. According to Dianne's reply - we already have 'the power' :)

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  4. The carvings are breath taking. Very war-like though. I'm sure the women were quite happy to stay away from them. It looks like such a beutiful place and you certainly had a wonderful trip, not lounging around the hotel pool at all! :D

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    1. You make a very good point Francie! See Dianne SS's comment below.

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  5. Fascinating! The first photo is absolutely stunning!

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    1. The men often carved (scarred) their faces like this - I saw a couple of men on the streets of Rotorua who had undergone this rite of passage - quite impressive.

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  6. Replies
    1. Hi whiteangel, It certainly was a gift to be able to tour this institute.

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  7. WOW! Mom is enjoying these along with me!

    Looks like a wonderful adventure that you are on!

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    1. Hi Scrappy, Emma sends her love :)

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  8. Those are amazing...and slightly scary!

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    1. Francie raised a good point when she noted they are very war-like images.

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  9. What an amazing culture, and wood carvings, Jane! I love to visit historical places like that. What a fabulous experience, and so nice of you to share with us through all these great photos, and stories! You would qualify well for a tour guide in some interesting museum place:DDD

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  10. oh wow..what fascinating pictures!! lucky you!!

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    1. Thanks Annmarie, I do feel incredibly blessed to have visited NZ

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  11. How very interesting! You were very fortunate to be able to tour this place. On the aspect of women not being allowed near the carvings--in my personal experience and teachings with Native people, this does not mean that women are thought to be inferior. In fact it is thought that women have an inate, extraordinary power, in that they bear children and they menstruate every month, which is seen a very special ability to self cleanse. It is this strong power--stronger than men's, which has led many Native groups to restrict women from certain rituals if they are menstruating, or to restrict their touching or being near power items--like in this case the sculptures, or in North America, men's medicine bundles. To put is another way, men have to create powerful items to give them strength and success in hunting, warrior activities, etc., while women have the power already in themselves. It is wise not to apply "Women's Lib" thinking to Native societies.

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    1. Hi Dianne, Thanks so much for your educational comments - makes me feel a whole lot better. We already have the power, LOL!!! Poor men :) You're right to state that we shouldn't judge them by our standards.

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  12. I just can't get over how beautiful the country is. It may well be the grass is greener syndrome but I have just been amazed at some of the pictures you have taken.

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    1. It's very beautiful for sure - much more than my camera can convey. One thing I kept remarking on was just how bright the green was - it was fall there and everything looked like a spring green here. I'd love to visit in late spring/early summer.

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  13. Wowness...what a super beautiful post Jane! Gorgeous carvings..so mganificent to see! and the last photo ..totally stunning..mystical..love it!
    Happy week to you..
    Blessings
    Victoria

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  14. Thanks so much Victoria! I'm reliving it all over again as I publish each post :)

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