Window of opportunity for waka as centerpiece of Gallery Matariki exhibition

Media release

08 June, 2018


Hariata Ropata Raukawa Len Taylor




Janet Bayly Hariata Ropata Raukawa Len Taylor


A few heads were scratched when a 6.2-metre waka, carved from a 700-year old matai log from the Otaki River, needed to be installed in Waikanae’s Mahara Gallery.

The waka (Kopapa), bearing the name Toro, is the centerpiece of the Gallery’s Matariki exhibition, Mahinga
Kai which opens on Friday (15 June). But the design of the building, formerly the town’s old library, didn’t make getting the waka into the Gallery easy.

“We could see that getting the waka through the front door was going to be difficult,” said Gallery Director Janet Bayly. “But we did have another option – opening up the Gallery’s north window that opens out onto the car park.

“It hadn’t been opened for years and it took some strong arms to get the window mechanism working again. We eventually got there and we were very happy when we’d

safely maneuvered the waka through the window and into the gallery.”

The waka is the work of Otaki painter, sculptor and occasional carver, Hariata Ropata Raukawa and carver and experienced waka-maker, Len Taylor.

Along with others, Hariata, who is of Ngatiawa, Ngati Raukawa and Toarangitira descent, is contributing a number of works to the exhibition.

She and Len found the matai log just below Otaki gorge some 10 years ago. At the time, Len was sceptical about its potential.

“Any sane person would have said it’s only good for firewood,” he said. “But Hariata said, ‘let’s make a waka’, and so we did.”

Working on the river bank, they spent about 50 hours using adzes to hollow out the log and create the waka. While they were working, they found a piece of tawa from which they carved two paddles and Len, who is of Celtic descent, created and carved an anchor drawn from the Waikanae River.

“The waka is a small example of the sheltered water craft that were used from Paekakariki to Waikanae wetlands and up to Otaki for seasonal harvesting of fish, freshwater koura, swamp birds tikouka and fern roots,” said Hariata.

“Mahinga Kai means interacting with the natural world and sustaining life. It’s also about hospitality to visitors and it encompasses the tools used by Maori to collect their food and store it to sustain them over the winter months.”

Janet Bayly says the waka is an ideal centerpiece for the exhibition because Matariki was, among other things, about people gathering for feasting to celebrate the New Year.

“Along with the waka, in the exhibition we have items used to gather and store food, including a carved gourd, crayfish pots, patu, various kete.”

The exhibition will be formally opened by Kāpiti Coast District Council Mayor, K Gurunathan at 5.00 pm on Friday 15 June and will be complemented by shared kai and live music. The opening will be preceded by a performance from Kapanaui Kapahaka at 4.00 pm in Mahara Place.

Also opening on Friday 15 June will be the second instalment of a Matariki-related exhibition named Home Fires. It is a project developed by the Gallery which involves artist Ron Te Kawa working on Matariki themes with five

classes at Waikanae’s Kapanui School.

Janet Bayly says the first group of art works created by the children is already on display in the community space at Paraparaumu library where it runs until 21 June.

“Home Fires, as the names suggests, relates to keeping home base functioning while people were away hunting, fishing and gathering food.

“We are very grateful for financial support from the Creative Communities Grant which has enabled us to create the opportunity for children from the school to produce some outstanding work. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai marae and Waikanae Community Board.”

Home Fires will be exhibited in NewSPACE until 9 July.


Issued by Mahara Gallery
Media contact: Janet Bayly, Director-Curator. Phone 04 902 6242 / 027 213 9692