Rūnaka Unveils Taonga For City Library

 Mr Houkamau and his mother, Angela Houkamau.
Photo Credit: Trace y Wright-Tawha/Nga Kete.

Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust staff member and kaiwhakairo (carver) Greg Houkamau has spent eight months carving Tāne-te-Wānanga-ā-Rangi for the Invercargill Public Library, which was unveiled in a blessing ceremony this morning.

The carving was unveiled and blessed by Kai Tahu Rūnaka representative Michael Skerrett in front of a group of invited guests including Nga Kete staff, Waihopai Rūnaka representatives, and Library staff.

In September last year, as part of Māori Language Week, the library asked Mr Houkamau to demonstrate mahi whakairo (carving) to the public on site.

Library Manager Marianne Foster said it was a great opportunity for the public to see a carver at work, while also promoting Te Reo me ōna Tikanga Māori and the services Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust had to offer.

Mr Houkamau continued working on the taonga from his workshop at home whenever he had any spare time.

“When the library approached me about demonstrating mahi whakairo, I felt honoured and humbled because it is a skill that I like to share with others,” Mr Houkamau says.

“With the support of Nga Kete’s CEO Tracey Wright-Tawha, I was able to spend a couple of afternoons carving at the library.”

Mr Houkamau has been carving for more than 30 years and developed a traditional Māori Arts Programme in Palmerston North, which focused on ngā mahi toi.

Ms Foster said links between the Library and Nga Kete had been strengthened, and she was looking forward to future collaboration opportunities.

“The Library has a Māori name, Te Haeata, and Greg has skillfully created a carving that brings together all that the Library symbolises,” she said.

“This carving will be considered a treasured taonga for our Library and bring the story of Tāne-te-Wānanga-ā-Rangi to life.”


Tāne, Te Haeata and Taka Wairangi travelled to Tiritiri-o-Matangi, the eleventh realm. Then Te Haeata and Taka Wairangi turned back. When Tāne arrived at Te Toi-ō-ngā-Rangi, the twelfth realm, Tāne was welcomed by Io and received the three baskets of knowledge and the two sacred stones.

Ngā Kete o te Wānanga
Ko te Kete Aronui that held all the knowledge that could help humanity.
Ko te Kete Tuauri that held the knowledge of ritual, memory and prayer.
Ko te Tuatea that contained knowledge of evil or makutu, which was harmful to humanity.
The stones or Whatukura (eyes of knowledge) known as Rehutai and Hukatai held the power of knowledge and added mana to the teaching and learning of knowledge.
When Tāne finally reached earth again he placed the baskets and stones in a Wharekura (special house of knowledge), which he had built before his journey to the heavens.
Tāne-te-Wānanga-ā-Rangi was left to maintain order on earth.

Kaiwhakairo – Greg Houkamau 2021