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TWO GREAT TRADITIONS

MAORI ART AND MAORI BRAVERY

UNITED IN MEMORIAL , CHURCH

THE STORY OF THE CARVINGS

"A.great nation is known by its history and traditions, also ; by its language, its poetry, and its art. These are the things which build up the character of a, people and which in the past'have made the Maori.race famous. I wish to apeal to the Maori people, to take steps to insure that their, children are brought up to know the history ,and traditions of the past. For in these days when the children go to-school and learn so many other things there is danger that; what is valuable in the past may be forgotten., ... I ask. you then to .teach'your children the history, mythological, tribal, and legendary, of the old time/so full of interest to all who study the past. Teach them, how your ancestors in frail canftss voyaged over the stormy seas, tell them of the deeds.of daring, tne feats of courage and endurance which made the character of the people what it is. ... . I am very pleased to hear a reference made to the preservation of Maori art. . . . Teach your children theae designs and their meaning, so that thb beautiful art may noli be forgotten. Teach them also the art of carving in^ wood,' an art which adorns some of the older houses. In this way the children will be brought up to pride of race and learn to respect and admire all that we white people look on with interest, all that your forefather's most esteemed. . . ."—His Excellency the Governor-General at the official welcome to him by the gathering of the East Coast Maoris at Tikitiki.

On such a scene as the marae at Tikitiki before a great assembly of the Maori people under the very.shadew of the hill where stands the Memorial Church, symbolising with its wealth of Native art the supreme sacrifice of the Maori soldiers in the war, in the heart of a country steeped in the story of the race, the references of His Excellency to the education of the Maori youth in the traditions and crafts of their forefathers were singularly happy. Mr. Ngata,in his welcome to.the Gov-ernor-General and his family, had already spoken earnestly of the need for such a revival in respect particularly of the arts which had given them, the interior of the church shortly afterwards to be opened. "You will see," he said,-"in the church an interior decorated in what was in the days of old our. distinctive art, carving;: <. in wood, reed-panelling and rafter-paint-ing. It is but a feeble effort on our part to carry on an art which made New Zealand famous. No doubt Your Excellency and Your Ladyship, were familiar during your previous residence in this colony (Dominion now) with the; best examples of the early Maori art. It is somewhat late in the day. to endeavour to .achieve, the same results now, but the Ngatiporou tribe has "begun to learn, that there'is nothing you cannot do if you set your mind to it. We have had to do our carving with European tools, but we have tried to follow the best examples of Maori art. There is one . thing I would like to add, and that is a regret that in thij Parliament House of Now Zealand, with the exception of the Native Affairs Committee, Room, there is no example of Maori art. For all there is to show to the contrary, the home of the Legislature might be anywhere else in the world, Europe or America, than in New Zealand. ..." THE WORK AND THE WORKERS. The story of the decoration of the interior of the church was told to the writer by Mr. Ngata at the conclusion of the hui, when he could spare a little timefrom the arduous and multifarious duties which' had "ept him busy through almost the entire twenty-four hours for many days. "Tlio main crvings of the church," he naid, "are (f the distinctively East , Coast school of Maori art, the work of Hone Ngatoto, the last of a line of -carvers whose work may be seen near Ruatoria in the Hinetapora meeting-house and at Waiomr J ''ni, the finest e-smple of its kind

i-'.'the Dominion. The smaller carvings in the church, the frames for the windows, the small slabs between the main uprights, parts of the altar, the com. munion rails, the organ frame, and some of the timber framing the roll of honour, have been executed by Rotorua carvers, and are modelled in the main on the Arawa school of carving. These artists are thoroughly competent, and use in their work a large variety of European chisels specially made for their particular purpose. The two styles of caping," added Mr. Ngata, "embodied in the decoration of the church will stand as evidence of the close co-operation in recent years between the Arawa and the Ngatiporou, two tribes which were prominent in their active loyalty during the Maori Wars and during the recent Great War. "The pulpit has .been presented by tie Ohinemutu Natives, and has been in the church since April last. The church is an improvement on the Rotorua church in one respect, inasmuch as the roof is decorated 1 in old Maori fashion with painted rafters, and almost every known design of rafter pattern has been used in the roof. Unlike most carved buildings in the district, the church has no,two patterns on one side of the church alike; no pattern is repeated." '. ' ' WOVEN REED PANELLING. Between the carved uprights and cross-pieces the walls of the churchaareo c covered witl) beautiful reed panels of a multitude of designs. Of these Mr. Ngata said: "The panels contain eight of the standard tukutuku or arapaki designs known to Maori.art.. All but one «f theso have been in use in I|his district, and that one'is 1 the 'tears' design, which prevails in'the Rotorua district. This was adopted as appropriate to a memorial ■ church. One pateru on the organ frame is not known outside the district,.where it is one of those commonly used .for purlins in the roofs of meeting-houses." Asked how' this work was done, Mr. Ngata said that working bees of the people of the .tribe had been responsible for its execution. under his own superintendence in a period of two months. Almost- every young man and young woman hal taken part in .. >_, work and a. good many of the pupils of Te Aute and Hukarere Col- ; leges had had a share in it. "So far as rafter-;painting and reedwork are concerned/ said Mr. Ngata reassuringly, "there need be no fear for a generation or two that the Maoris of this coast will lose the distinctive.

designs and the art of weaving them, but there is a danger of the woodcarver's craft being lost, for wo have nobody to replace our old.masters."

Of the rest of the church with its noble memorial stained-glass window, showing two Maori officers kneeling at the feet of Christ on Calvary with a background of the hilla and bush of their native land; its marble font with carved base bearing a figure of Tauinata Akura, the prisoner who returned in 1834' from captivity among the Ngapuhi bearing with him the Gospel; of the tablet of the Roll of Honour containing the names of the 87 officers and men of the East Coast Maoris who fell in the war there is no space here to tell. The church is far away from the beaten track of tourist and traveller alike, and it would be a long and costly pilgrimage . to it from the chief centres of population; but it will always have an attraction to those who Jove this beautiful country and our brown brethren who have fought against us and by our sides with equal gallantry and have erected this memorial to their heroic dead.

A MEMORABLE FUNERAL SPEECH

And here is perhaps the fitting place to give at greater lengthy than it was possible to telegraph from..'.the spot the words of the Governor-General at the unveiling of the monument to the Maori soldiers on the hill above the church overlooking the broad 'valley of the Waiapu as it flows out to sea. "We are gathered together this afternoon," said His Excellency, "to pay our respects to the soldiers of the Maori race who died in the Great War. Some remember these men as little children playing about the home;: some of you think of them as young men, friends whom you dearly loved; others look upon 'them as comrades in a great army with whom they marched and fought. All of us are united to-day in a wish to pay our respects to the men to whom we owe all that we possess now of peace and happiness. 3?rom the Maori race there went out to the war 2600 men. Of these 350 men were killed —one in eight. Prom the East Coast alone there went' out 350 men; 87 were killed, or one man in five; The figures enable us to realise a little—something—of the grief and distress which fell on the Maori people of this district. "Of the gallant deeds which these men did I shall not speak; they are written in the pages of. history and will never be f crgottcn. Wo know the Maori race has always been brave in battle. We know by their history and tradition that they have, never feared death. We know that in defence' of what they deemed right and' just they would never surrender, but fight on'i for ever, ever, ever. . These men were worthy sons of their great race. They were brave in battle; they were loyal to their comrades; they stood firm in the face of the enemy:; they fought as Maoris always fought and died as Maoris always died, undefeated and unafraid.

"So to-day we, pakeha and Maori, come together to pay honour to their memory and mourn their loss. ' But, my friends, we will not make this an occasion for too great mourning; rather let us think of the glory which they gained and of the fame with which their names will endure. You, their fathers and mothers, will tie proud of your sons, and glory in the thought that they went out to do their duty. And you will think of the living, for- there are young trees springing up to take the place of the fallen. You will tell your children of the deeds which these ,men did and teach them to be bravo and manly and strong as ■these men were, and you will' forget your sorrow. These men, lie scattered far and wide ■ throughout the: world, but their spirit lives on with us to' day. It matters' not where 1 brave men die and are buried; as it was said of old, the whole earth is the sepulchre of famous men.-

"And so to-day we unite together, pakoha and Maori alike, to do honour to the iji'len. We are united in sorrow for those who have passed away and also in pm"o for the example. 1 which they gave to us. So may, in death, these brave men bring our two races still closer together in friendship and loyalty to the cause of King anil country for which they died."

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

TWO GREAT TRADITIONS, Evening Post, Volume CXI, Issue 50, 27 February 1926

Word Count
1,885

TWO GREAT TRADITIONS Evening Post, Volume CXI, Issue 50, 27 February 1926

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