Topic: Maori pataka (storehouse)
Is part of topic Tangata o le Moana (Te Papa Exhibition)
Small pataka (storehouses) like this were a distinctive feature of some Maori settlements in the 1800s. They were used for storing objects like weapons and garments, and were built off the ground on a single post to provide protection from rats or other predators. Some posts were over seven metres high. This pataka was carved to be displayed in the Maori Hall of the former National Museum.
Cook Islands carver
The carver, Iotua Taringatahi (Charlie) Tuarau, was born in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands in 1912. He came to New Zealand in 1934 in a singing group accompanying fifteen Cook Islands ariki (high chiefs) and their wives. Their journey took them to the opening of a carved meeting house at Tokomaru Bay, on the North Island’s East Coast, then to the celebrations of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Bay of Islands.
The visit, like other visits of Pacific Island leaders to New Zealand since the early 1920s, was at the invitation of the New Zealand government.
A museum career
Charlie stayed on in New Zealand to train as a carver at the Rotorua School of Arts and Crafts. During World War II he fought with the 28th Maori Battalion, but after the war he resumed his carving career, employed at the National Museum (Te Papa’s predecessor) under a government rehabilitation scheme.
In his 30 years at the museum, Charlie carved many pieces, both for the museum and for other institutions, and worked on the restoration of the meeting house Te Hau ki Turanga. He gave demonstrations, and guided people through the Maori Hall where his hearty welcome: ‘Tena koe, e hoa! Nau mai, haere mai!’ made Maori visitors in particular feel at home.
Text originally published in Tai Awatea, Te Papa's onfloor multimedia database (2007)