Nuku Tewhatewha Installation View
This nationally significant Pataka (Māori store house, usually for food) was commissioned by paramount chief Wi Tako Ngatata of Te Atiawa and carved in the 1850s as a sign of support for Kīngitanga, or the Māori King Movement. It is one of only seven Pataka built around the North Island as ‘Pillars of the Kingdom’, and the only one to survive.
Nuku Tewhatewha was gifted to Hutt City in the 1970s to be cared for as part of The Dowse Art Museum collection. It remains the most significant taonga (treasure) in our care. At The Dowse, Nuku Tewhatewha is presented as a tohu (symbol) of the creative, forward-looking response to change that characterises much of Māori history.
Kīngitanga is a movement that arose among some of the Māori tribes of New Zealand in the 1850s to establish a symbolic role similar in status to that of the monarch of the colonising people, the British.
The position of Māori monarch is a non-constitutional role with no legal power in New Zealand, but it is a symbolic role invested with a high degree of mana (prestige). Since the 1850s the role has been vested in the Tainui iwi, who agreed to guard the position when it was created.
In the early 1850s, a movement to establish a Māori king developed in response to the rapid loss of Māori land to the British government and colonists. The movement was instigated by Tamihana Te Rauparaha (son of Te Rauparaha) after having met Queen Victoria in England in 1852. It was believed that by having a monarch who could claim status similar to that of Queen Victoria, Māori would be able to deal with Pakeha on equal footing. The establishment of the monarchy was also designed to achieve unity among iwi of all regions of the islands and thus weaken the potential on the part of the British to 'divide and rule'; and, in addition, it was seen as a step towards establishing law and order.
The Kīngitanga movement and its influence has expanded since its establishment and it is widely recognised and respected by Māori in many parts of New Zealand today.