Waharoa at Te Papa – Gateways to Aotearoa New Zealand

The three main waharoa at Te Papa are significant and special to our museum in several ways. 

Traditional waharoa

In Wellington Foyer, Level 2

This traditional waharoa was created for the Colonial Museum, Te Papa’s forerunner, in 1906.

Visitors at Te Papa, 2019. Photo by Johnny Hendrikus. Te Papa (136715)

This waharoa was commissioned by Augustus Hamilton, the director of Te Papa's forebear, the Colonial Museum, for the New Zealand government. In 1906, it featured in the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch, where it formed part of a double stockade which enclosed the exhibition's model , called Araiteuru.

The work was carried out by master carver Neke Kapua and his sons Tene and Eramiha, of Ngäti Tarawhai, a subtribe of Te Arawa of Rotorua. The waharoa is carved from a twenty-two-metre single slab of tötara that came from the central North Island.

The idea of the waharoa is particularly meaningful at Te Papa. Our entire museum is also a waharoa – a gateway to New Zealand’s natural and cultural heritage.

Contemporary waharoa

At the entrance to Mana Whenua on Level 4

This waharoa is called Whakamarama (Enlightening).

Ross Hemera, Whakamarama (Enlightening), 1998, made with Totara, aluminium, copper, oil stain, wax. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (1998-0027-1)

Created in 1997 by Ross Hemera, it is made of totara, aluminium and copper. It was purchased by Te Papa in 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.

With this waharoa Hemera presents Tane, the bringer of light, separating his parents, Ranginui and the Papatūānuku and allowing light to fall on the land and their children. Whakamarama continues Hemera’s work with the mythological, reptile, bird, and human forms of the South Island rock drawings extending them into three-dimensional form.

Outside Rongomaraeroa, our marae on Level 4

This is where manuhiri wait for the tangata whenua to welcome them in.

Waharoa - This is the gateway where visiting groups assemble to be called via karanga onto marae ātea. (Note: This is currently deinstalled for repairs)

The waharoa marks the threshold of their relationship – the meeting of cultures and honours the various peoples who have settled in New Zealand, including:

  • the great Māori ancestor Kupe, and the many ocean-going people who followed him across the Pacific

  • Abel Tasman, James Cook, and other European navigators

  • other ethnic groups who subsequently arrived here.

Please note: This waharoa is currently deinstalled.