Pounamu for Winter Olympians
Sixty-eight pounamu medallions were presented to Peter Wardell, Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Winter Olympics team at Waewae Pounamu in Hokitika last week. The medallions will be presented to individual athletes attending the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia from February 7-23.
Waewae Pounamu director, Francois Tumahai presented the medallions to Olympics representatives at a mihi whakatau and blessing held at Waewae Pounamu in Hokitika.
The sixty-eight pieces were created by fulltime Waewae Pounamu carvers Pierre Tumahai, Julie Nicholl and Anthony Coakley and have been named Te Taumata o Angitu – The Pinnacle of Success. The design incorporates a myriad of traditional and contemporary narratives woven together to reflect the spirit of the 2014 Winter Olympics team.
The base design reflects Aotearoa New Zealand’s highest point, Aoraki/Mount Cook, symbolizing where the athletes are from, who they represent and the magnitude of the challenge ahead. The stone chosen for the pendants – pounamu – reinforces attributes of strength, power and perseverance within the wearer. The orientation of the pendant, leading downwards to a point, reflects a traditional formation for meeting challenges. The notches on the edge of the design reflect the traditional niho taniwha design and the arduous route to success from the base of the mountain to the peak. Complementing the carving design is the bound cord, representing team cohesion as a core component of success.
Olympic representatives attending the event were delighted to have the chance to interact with the carvers and to learn more about the pendants and the Ngāi Tahu Pounamu Authentication Scheme.
Every Olympian for a decade has worn a pounamu pendant and in 2004 Ngāi Tahu, gifted a pounamu touchstone, or Mauri Stone, to the New Zealand Olympic Team. This touchstone accompanies the team to every Olympic Games and is a source of inspiration and pride.
And in 2012, Ngāi Tahu Pounamu was used for the 350 tahutahi/snowflake pendants carved by Jeff Mahuika (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Waewae, Ngāti Mahaki; Rangitane) of Hokitika, for the London Olympic team. It was the first time the rare tahutahi stone had been legally used.