July 6, 2022, 6:41 p.m.
LOCAL ARTIST BJ NATANAHIRA (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
BJ Natanahira (Te Rarawa/Te Aupōuri) is the local Māori artist behind the 6-7 metre sculptures that now stand proudly on both sides of the entrance into Ahipara, historically known as Ahiparapara.
The unveiling and blessing were held in the early morning of Saturday 2nd July 2022, with a crowd of approximately 100 community members present. Natanahira cut the ribbons to reveal his designs and explained that the waka monuments are positioned standing up, in acknowledgement of a traditional Māori practice where waka were stood upright in the sand to mark the passing of a rangatira or chief. These monuments stand tall and authoritative-like. They represent guardianship, kaitiakitanga, and stand as a reminder to those entering the area to respect and acknowledge the history of Ahiparapara.
REPRESENTATIVE FIGURE OF PATITO SITS INSIDE STANDING WAKA (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
Within one standing waka is a representative figure of Patito.
Patito was the son of Haupure who married Paengatai. Patito and his father were involved in the battle for Ahipara. Patito was the great grandson of Tūmoana who was responsible for establishing authority over whenua from Hokianga around to Ahiparapara.
Patito had a son, Toakai, and it is through these chiefly lineages and narratives, plus those of Poroa, that very significant events for the people of Te Rarawa and Ahipara are documented.
The positioning of this monument was well thought out too. It was carefully designed to reflect a real-life phenomenon. Natanahira explained that when in Tauroa (landing place for the Tinana waka) and standing in the right position, at the right time, with the right light, you can see a natural rock formation in the rocks of what the locals have named Patito.
Patito, the monument, also has lighting aspects to highlight different angles and represent this event in Tauroa.
TOKOTOKO & BENCH IN SECOND WAKA (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
Within the second waka monument are a tokotoko and a bench made of natural stone to encourage the spoken work and whaikōrero. This represents and acknowledges the history and narratives that weave together within this area.
Events have been planned over Matariki, and could not have been better timed. It was only one week ago, when local Te Rarawa kaumātua and historian, Hone Paitai, shared the local history behind the beautiful surrounding landscapes at the top of maunga Whangatauatia. At the gateway blessing, Hone Paitai opened with karakia, followed by Te Rarawa Chairman, Haami Piripi, who shared the meaning behind the magnificent creations.
"Tāwhirimātea answered prayers and the blessing, unveiling and bestowing of the name “Tomo Mai,” upon the cultural gateway into Ahipara drew gasps of admiration, as the in-ground lights illuminated BJ Natanahira’s sculpture. The sculpture represents the values of kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga that Patito, chief of Te Rarawa Kaiwhare ki Ahipara, stood for" - Hone Paitai.
"The name Ahiparapara came about at the lifting of the year-long rāhui in honour of Poroa. The ceremony took place on the area opposite the St Clements Anglican Church which was once the main sports field in Ahipara. The name refers to the cooking fires and the special manner in which the kai moana was prepared, cooked and ceremoniously presented to mark the lifting of the tapu. The extra 'para' in Ahiparapara vanished over time out of pronunciation laziness" said Paitai.
The waka are made of treated pine and were laminated by Timberlab and the structure of Patito, was made of steel by a Taranaki tradesman named Nathan Hull. The cultural gateway costed approximately $100,000 and took around four months to complete.
Felicity Foy shared a great description of the project via social media;
"I feel so humbled that our Masterplan project has created the opportunity for very talented artists such as BJ, to deliver these stunning gateways in Te Hiku, turning Te Hiku into a destination, and a reason to turn left to visit Awanui, Kaitaia, and Ahipara as part of the journey to Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua).
John Paitai from the Ahipara Takiwā (who is also part of the project working group for the Masterplan) took a key role in leading the delivery of the Ahipara gateway collaboration project with FNDC and the Masterplan working group.
The Ahipara Takiwā worked in collaboration with the Te Hiku Masterplan working group to choose the location of the gateways, and to choose the artists to deliver the gateways" - Felicity Foy.
NEW ARTWORK IN AWANUI BY LOCAL NGĀI TAKOTO ARTIST, MĀORI ERSTICH
The new cultural gateway in Ahiparapara is one of many successful collaborative efforts of the Te Hiku Open Spaces Revitalisation Project. Unahi Wharf was recently opened and blessed and Pukenui Wharf prior to that. The Awanui township and park have come to life with many new additions that weave local history and also allowed iwi artists to showcase their mahi. Many new fun attractions such as the exciting pump tracks are springing up across Te Tai Tokerau, all thanks to the Te Hiku Open Spaces Revitalisation Project and its collaborative partners and funders.
There are additions yet to be unveiled within Ahiparapara and surrounding townships over the coming months. The South Road Kaitaia gateway blessing will be held on Friday 29th July, and the second gateway into Ahipara on Roma Road will be Saturday 30th July 2022.
Visitors to our local townships will be able to experience and learn about the meaning of significant sites, learn about the local history, feel the essence behind the new sculptures, pouwhenua and monuments that greet them into the area, and in return, will be able to tread a little lighter while exploring.