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"Tuhiwai" mere pounamu (nephrite weapon)
"Tuhiwai" mere pounamu (nephrite weapon) 1500-1800
Maker unknown, Otago
Westland source, 410 x 119 x 25 mm
Gift of the Wineera family, 1963
This object is featured in Te Papa's Collections Online
Tuhiwai is the famous mere-pounamu (greenstone hand club) of Te Rauparaha, the celebrated warrior cheif of Ngäi Toa. It was gifted to him in exchange for the waka taua (war canoe) Wai-ka-hua by the Ngäi Tahu chief Te Matenga Taiaroa. As an example of the pre-European mere-pounamu, Tuhiwai remains unsurpassed in its perfection of form and exquisite manufacture.
Tuhiwai means to 'strike the water', and it is in this manner that Te Rauparaha is said to have used Tuhiwai to divine the future and guide him in making decisions during his campaigns. Tuhiwai is considered extremely tapu by the Ngäti Toa, and has been known to change colour on the death of a member of the Wineera family, the descendants of Te Rauparaha.
According to one Ngäti Toa legend, Tuhiwai was also the weapon used by Te Rangihaeata during the execution of Captain Arthur Wakefield in April 1843 at the Wairau Affair. The conflict was precipitated by European encroachment onto Ngäti Toa lands on the Wairau plain and resulted in the accidental shooting of Te Rangihaeata's wife, Te Rongopämamao. Te Rangihaeata, aggrieved at his wife's death, demanded the customary right to execute the prisoners as compensation.
Back to Te tatau pounamu - the greenstone door
Tutuira Wineera presented Tuhiwai to Te Papa's predecessor, the Dominion Museum, in 1963 on behalf of the Wineera family.