the Pou at Tangi-ke-teo along Te Ara o Nga Tupuna

A Maori statue (Pou) on the ridge of Mount Victoria (Tangi-ke-teo)                          in  Wellington, New Zealand is a marker for the Maori Heritage Trail (Te Ara o Nga Tupuna).

From Mount Victoria one can see most of Wellington Harbour.

The Story

Legend has it that two taniwha (mythological beings that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea) lived in the harbour, which at that time was an enclosed lake.

One was a restless, energetic taniwha named Ngake, who longed to escape its confinements and swim to open sea. It sped about in the north east corner of the harbour, using its tail to build up the shallow area (Waiwhetu), and then hurled itself at the rocks encircling the lake, and smashed through to escape to the freedom of Raukawamoana (Cook Strait).

The other taniwha, Whataitai, decided to make his escape through another exit. Pushing off with its tail, and in doing so forming the Ngauranga gorge, Whataitai headed off down the other side of the island of Motu Kairanga (Miramar Peninsula) only to get stuck by the receding tide Ngake had let in. Whataitai’s body thus forms the isthmus between the former island of Motu Kairanga and the western side of the harbour, where the airport is now situated.

It is believed Tangi-te-keo, (Mt Victoria) was named after the soul of Whataitai, which, after leaving the taniwha’s body, flew up to the top of this hill in the shape of a bird and proceeded to tangi (weep and mourn).

The Modern Context

Such a stunning moment to see this bright red metal Maori statue against the backdrop of Wellington, a bustling city similar to San Francisco in many ways with a hugely diverse, urbane, young population, steep streets and  blind corners, not to mention at least seven active fault lines.

When I visited Mt. Vic, there were literally hundreds of kindergardeners sitting around drawing/scribbling their rendition of the statue on pieces of paper. This modern Maori statue  is a testament to the story of the land. It seems they are imbued with the the terroir of their country from a young age, or at least get to go on awesome field trips to draw and color statues.