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Object: Wakahuia (treasure box)

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Title Wakahuia (treasure box)
Production Unknown (carver), 1800, New Zealand
Materials wood, stain, paua shell
Classification containers
Technique carving
Dimensions Overall: 80mm (Height) x 480mm (Length) x 165mm (Width/Depth)
Registration number WE000946

This waka huia (treasure box) was originally identified as a papa hou. The rectangular form of papa hou is a northern variation of the more widespread waka huia, which are canoe shaped. The other main difference between the two forms is that papa hou are not carved on the bottom, whereas waka huia are.

This waka huia is finely carved all over with päkati (dog tooth pattern) notches, haehae (parallel grooves), and double rauru spirals. (Rauru are rauponga - an alternating pattern of päkati notches and haehae - when used as a spiral. The design is possibly named after Rauru, who is sometimes credited with being the first carver.) The main design areas are linked with rauponga. The terminal ends of the base have a crouched male figure at one end and a crouched female figure at the other. Both are high-browed with päua (large New Zealand abalone with blue-green inner shell) shell inlaid eyes and protruding tongues. There are holes at both ends in order to suspend the waka huia from the rafters of a dwelling.

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 1958 as part of the K A Webster bequest to the people of New Zealand.

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Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.