Object of the Month

carved figure, new zealand

Carved figure, New Zealand

This figure from the Whanganui district of North Island would have stood at the entrance of a storehouse called a rua tāhuhu in the Maori language. Semi-submerged into the ground, families used these roofed pits to store food supplies, particularly sweet potato (kumara). Some of the carved details have been lost through weathering but if you look closely, you can still see plain spirals on the hips and one shoulder, plus a more elaborate spiral pattern called rauponga on the other. The spirals connect with crescent-shaped ridges on the arms, hands and legs. The figure has been identified as the ancestor Taikapoia – note how the name has been inscribed in mirror writing on its stomach. Probably made during the 1820s or 1830s, this object forms part of the Charles Smith collection: PRM 1923.87.188

Find this figure in the Court as part of a new display highlighting the art of Maori wood carving.

Check back each month to see the latest featured object.