New pou marks sound of music

A new marker to tragedy, grief and lament.

Anthony Tipene-Matua, Alex Bell and Master Carver Thompson Hokianga stand before the pou. The sun rises behind them.
Anthony Tipene-Matua, Alex Walker and Master Carver Thompson Hokianga at dawn ceremony. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

Tamatea is an ancestor of the people of Ngāti Kahungunu. During his lifetime of extensive travels and explorations, he acquired many titles including Tamatea-Pōkaiwhenua (land eater/explorer). He also bestowed names upon many places. Tamatea did not, however, name this place near Porangahau in the Hawke’s Bay. It was what occurred after the death of his younger brother nearby that resulted in the creation of the longest place name in Aotearoa New Zealand.

As the sun rose to greet the dawn on Saturday 5 March 2022 a group gathered to mark the placement of a new Pou carved by Thompson Hokianga (Ngāti Kere) at the taumata (summit) of a hill overlooking the glittering Pacific Ocean.

History often records skirmishes between explorers and groups which already occupy an area or place. This is what happened between Tamatea’s party who were exploring inland near Porangahau and local iwi Ngāti Hine (Hinetewai).

Tamatea’s brother was killed, and so his wairua (spirit) lingered there before making the final journey from the place of the living to the place of the dead. In his sadness Tamatea also lingered nearby for a time. Seeking places of solitude, he would walk and climb the hills, eventually favouring one hilltop knoll from where he could look out over the ocean. There he would often sit in remembrance and grief and was heard to play his kōauau, a type of flute most often played during times of sorrow or in acknowledgement of sorrow.

Tamatea used this music to express the extreme depth of his loss. Those laments were heard, felt and remembered by the people who lived nearby. It was they who referred to this place as Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. The name is a marker of the Taumata where the great explorer Tamatea climbed mountains and expressed his sorrow and grief through the music of his kōauau.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Director Anthony Tipene-Matua explained that the Taumata is listed as a Wāhi Tapu as it is a significant site for Māori. It has a long history and is the longest place name in Aotearoa New Zealand.

- Niki Partsch