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Object: Cross-tree (from a Niu)

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Title Cross-tree (from a Niu)
Production Unknown (carver), North Island
Medium summary Wood (Matai)
Materials wood
Classification religious objects
Technique woodcarving
Dimensions Overall: 5800mm (Width) x 210mm (Height)
Credit line Purchased 1907
Registration number ME001431

Thisis across-tree from a Pai Marire niu. Pai Marire was a faith and niu were flagpolesupon whichmultiple cross-trees were fixed horizontally. Flags and penants were flown either from the central niu or the cross-trees.

The Pai Marire faith
The Pai Marire faith was an adaptation of Judeo-Christianity and pre-European-contact Maori spiritualism.It emergedfrom Taranaki around 1862 under the guidance of its main prophet Te Ua Haumene, and spread among many Maori tribes throughout the North Island during a time of cultural, physical, and poltical upheaval.As manykainga (home villages) or iwi (tribes) took up Pai Marire, niu were erected as signifiers of faith and as a central worship focus for Pai Marire followers.At its height, it is estimated that there were as many as 50 niu installed in pa (fortified villages) around the country. Today, however,there are only approximatelysix still standing.

Pai Marire niu
There are many contemporary records from soldiers, observers, and Maori writing at the time about the distinctive worship practices of the Pai Marire.A niu was a statement of a tribe's political and religious alignment, and was also a focus for religious practice.It was considered a resting place or a vessel for the two main messenger deities the Pai Marire worshipped,as well asa shrine around which followers would gather and engage in prayer rituals. The Pai Marire believed that iterations of the two Christian angels, Gabriel (Rura) and Michael (Riki), would rest in the cross-tree ends or the flags when invoked through prayer and ceremony.

Very little is known about this particular cross-tree. It is detached from the original niu andwas collected from Galatea by T E Donne (1860–1945) probably between 1890 and 1905. It is paintedwith the traditional kokowai pigment used by Maori (red ochre mixed with fat) and is relatively uncarved with the exception of the two terminating manaia (carved beak figures) at either end. It is made from matai wood (Prumnopiys taxifolia), which is abundant in the central North Island. The carver is unknown, as is the kainga for whom it may have originally been made.

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