'Ko te tohu o te Rangatira he pataka whakairo e tu na i roto i te pa tuwhatawhata' The sign of a chief is a carved storehouse standing within a palisaded pa
Nuku Tewhatewha has been on display at The Dowse since 1982 when it was returned to Wellington after a 70 year absence. It is no ordinary food store but has a long symbolic history linked to the history of Maori leadership throughout Aotearoa.
The pataka was carved for Wi Tako Ngatata of Te Atiawa, Ngati Ruanui and Taranaki iwi. It has a particular connection to the formation of the Kingitanga and the relationship among Maori tribal leadership – it formed one of what were called the “Pillars of the Kingdom”. These Pillars of the Kingdom (Nga Pou o te Kingitanga) were a group of seven or eight such Pataka carved across the country as one of the early symbols of the movement that became known as the Kingitanga.
The journey of Nuku Tewhatewha is traced from its early home at Te Mako, a 17 room European style house in Naenae, where Wi Tako lived. Te Mako was an old Pa site just south of the present Naenae Railway Station. The pataka was carved there in 1856 by Horonuku of Ngati Tuwharetoa and his team of carvers. Although it is said that Ngati Porou carvers were used by Horonuku, it is generally accepted that the overall carving style is from Ngati Tuwharetoa. The land at Te Mako was leased by Wi Tako to William Beetham in 1861 and an agreement was reached that Nuku Tewhatewha would be cared for by William Beetham.
William Beetham was a Yorkshireman who had arrived with his family in Wellington in 1855. He continued to live at Te Mako with Nuku Tewhatewha on the property until 1888 when the house was destroyed by fire. This was also the year Beetham died, with Wi Tako having died the year before in 1887. After William’s death, the ‘agreement’ was maintained by Beetham’s third son George and in around 1888/89, Nuku Tewhatewha was moved from Te Mako to George Beetham’s home at 8 Moturoa Street, Thorndon, Wellington, (on part of what was Pipitea Pa). It remained there until 1912 when George returned to England and the pataka was transferred to Brancepeth Station, 4049 ha of scrub and forest at Wainuioru, owned by brothers Richmond and William Henry Beetham. Here it was looked after by subsequent generations of the Beetham family down to Hugh Beetham, the great grandson of the original William Beetham.
In 1982, the Beethams decided that the pataka, after 126 years in the weather, should go under cover and offered it to the City of Lower Hutt. Reverend Ruka Broughton along with Rangtihi (John) Tahuparae lifted the tapu on Nuku Tewhatewha in preparation for its return to Lower Hutt. The pataka was carried over the Rimutakas by Tom Parry in the week of 20 September 1982. Nuku Tewhatewha was welcomed by local Te Atiawa dignatories including, Rev Ruka Broughton, Makere Rangiatea Ralph Love, Neville Baker, Mokoroa Rio Love, Ena Okeroa, Mere Broughton, Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, and many others of the Te Atiawa/Taranaki whanui whanau.
Wi Tako Ngatata and the Maori King Movement
It is said the Maori King movement was conceived by Wi Tako, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, Matene Te Whiwhi, Wiremu Kingi and others at Otaki in 1853. The Maori King idea came into being at a meeting in Taiporohenui, a Maori Land Federation Council Hall at Manawapou in South Taranaki. The Kingitanga was demonstrative of the Maori right to combine over retention of their land against the growing pressure from settlers. The context of the creation of Nuku Tewhatewha is intimately linked to the establishment of the King movement which provided its reason for being. Wi Tako Ngatata was one of the instigators of this movement which he was later forced to repudiate. The team of carvers was lead by Horonuku (Te Heuheu Tukino IV) who was closely related to Te Heuheu Iwikau who was also a promoter of the Kingitanga, as well as being a potential candidate as King. In fact it appears that each of the pataka known as the Pillars of the Kingdom was associated with candidates who chose not to accept the title of King, but signified their allegiance to the principles of the kingitanga, by the building of a carved pataka. These pataka were not food storage houses, but were buildings associated with chiefly matters and were chiefly symbols. The buildings distinguished themselves because they were elaborately carved (however not to the extent of some chiefly pataka) to signify the mana of their owners. If they were to store anything, it would be the taonga of the chiefs, their garments and weapons and other treasured items.
Construction and Maintenance of Nuku Tewhatewha
Nuku Tewhatewha was designed to store the taonga of the Chief and classed as a ‘superior type of pataka’. It is an elaborate example of the craft, encompassing fine carvings and graphic, unique kowhaiwhai in the inside of rafters of the mahau (porch). The pataka was mounted on four poles, not high off the ground. Totara logs were hauled from the forest and slit with wooden wedges (orapipi) and shaped into wall slabs with stone adzes (toki tarei) or steel tool where these were available. To finish the surfaces, a large adze (ngao pae) would have been used on the side wall slabs and for a finer finish, a smaller adze (ngao tu) would have been used on the back wall of Nuku Tewhatewha. The slabs were reduced with chisels (whao) before being smoothed using quartz riverstones (tahi). Totara bark and toetoe reeds were gathered for decorating the side walls of the mahau (veranda) and for the roofing. Four or six piles were positioned with joists (huapae) and floor slabs (kaupapa) lashed to them. The totara wall slabs were lashed with vines (aka kai). The rafters and ridgepole are fastened with vines to the wall slabs. The toetoe reeds were laid on the rafters that were then covered with totara bark. The main entrance to the pataka is a door set in the floor at the rear of the house. The front door was more a means of airing the contents of the pataka. The carved sections of Nuku Tewhatewha consisted of the two bargeboards (maihi), front slabs (ama) and outer threshold plank (pae-kai-aha or paepae), veranda wall slabs (poupou) a gable figure (tekoteko), Pare – lintel above the door, and Tautiaki – uprights supporting the bargeboards. The kuwaha showing a large female figure holding an infant below here breast appears above the doorway of Nuku Tewhatewha. This may be a clue to the name of the pataka with it being connected to te wharetangata or the role of women as the progenitor of a hapu. In the 1920s a tin roof was placed under totara bark to ensure the pataka was waterproof and lead flashings were placed over the carvings by Mr R.F.R Beetham to protect them. In the 1960s, the tekoteko was replaced, being carved by Epuni [possibly Ivor Te Puni] from totara grown at Brancepeth Station. Restoration work on the mahau rafters (heke), removal of lichen from the maihi, fumigation and cleaning was completed in 1982. The totara bark for the pataka was donated by Mr Edward Beetham.