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Object: Wakahuia (treasure box)

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Title Wakahuia (treasure box)
Production Unknown (carver), 1800-1900, New Zealand
Materials wood
Classification containers
Technique carving
Dimensions Overall: 370mm (Length) x 110mm (Width) x 80mm (Depth)
Credit line Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992
Registration number OL001061

This waka huia (treasure box) has elaborate surface carving with two raised masked faces on the lid and double opposing heads at each end of the box. The whole surface area is oriented around a series of haehae (parallel grooves) containing scalloped unaunahi (fish scale) patterns. These are arranged in a haphazard manner around the whole vessel, although the carver has attempted to create more formal design fields on the sides of the box.

Papahou and wakahuia
The rectangular form of papahou is a northern variation of the more widespread waka huia, which are canoe shaped.

Waka huia were used to contain the treasured personal adornments of both men and women - items such as hei tiki (pendants) and hüia (extinct New Zealand bird: Heteralocha acutirostris) feathers for decorating and dressing the hair. They were hung from the interior rafters of houses.

This waka huia was repatriated to New Zealand from Britain in 1948 as part of the substantial W O Oldman Collection purchased by the New Zealand Government.

Related information

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