Ngāi Tahu unveil a pouwhenua, carved sign and tukutuku panels in Antarctica

A pouwhenua, carved Scott Base sign and tukutuku panels created by Ngāi Tahu artists will be unveiled at Scott Base on Sunday 20 January.

Prime Minister John Key, Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Tā Mark Solomon, and master weaver Ranui Ngarimu will take part in the special ceremony.

Geographically, Ngāi Tahu is the closest iwi to Antarctica. On behalf of all Māori, Ngāi Tahu were invited by Antarctica New Zealand to make a carved pouwhenua (marker post) and tukutuku panels (traditional decorative wall panels) for Scott Base.

Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Tā Mark Solomon says it is an honour to be tasked with creating a cultural marker at Antarctica.

“Māori have a long history of exploration akin to those who go to Antarctica. It has been our privilege to create a pouwhenua that depicts this characteristic we share, with Māori and with those who journey to Antarctica.”

Master carver Fayne Robinson (Poutini, Ngāi Tahu) designed and carved the 2m tall pouwhenua.

The pouwhenua personifies exploration, adventure and discovery, which are defining characteristics of all people, past and present, who journey to Antarctica.

The head of the pouwhenua looks straight up to the sky as a symbol of celestial navigation. It is decorated with stars, waves, water and animals depicting nature and representing the importance of the environment.

To maintain a physical connection with New Zealand, the totara used for the head of the pouwhenua was cut out of the same piece of timber used to make the main support beam of the Ngāti Waewae Tuhuru Wharenui (West Coast, South Island).

Under the direction of Fayne Robinson, trainee carvers Caleb Robinson (Poutini, Ngāi Tahu), Mahana Coulston (Poutini, Ngāi Tahu), Jamie Whittle (Ngāi Tūāhuriri), worked together on two carved panels to be installed in the recreation room at Scott Base.

They also carved a Scott Base sign, to be placed at the entrance of the base.

To accompany the pouwhenua and the sign, two tukutuku panels have been designed by Ngāi Tahu master weaver Ranui Ngarimu (Ngāi Tahu, Ōraka-Aparima). The panels are to be mounted upon the Leaders Wall and the Memorial Wall inside Scott Base.

Each tukutuku panel features traditional designs to tell their stories. The memorial panel, He Maumahara, shows many crosses or stars shinning in the night sky, acknowledging those who have been to Antarctica and passed on.

The second panel, He Manukura, speaks of leadership, or those who have inspired others. It acknowledges and tells the story of the on-going journey of learning and portrays the story of people who continue to research in Antarctica.

Ngāti Waewae weavers from the West Coast of the South Island and Antarctica New Zealand staff assisted Ranui Ngarimu in creating the tukutuku panels.