Te Whare Hukahuka o Tangaroa represents all of the ocean’s domain, and is a metaphor for the diversity of all of the unique life forms and natural qualities of the ocean.
The ocean is important to Māori as ocean bound people. Māori are born navigators, natural innovators and visionaries. It is from the god of the sea, Tangaroa, that the world is blessed with creativity and innovation - in sea animals (ika), shellfish (mataitai) and coral species. The oceans began as sparse and empty, void of marine life. Tangaroa, being a god of creation, first created the waves which crashed upon the shores, bubbling up in froth and foam (hukahuka). It was from the froth that Tangaroa then moulded the many creatures of the sea.
Te Whare Hukahuka o Tangaroa refers to this froth, representing the essence of creation and innovation. Te Whare was the very first prototype of all meeting houses, which was under the ocean. The house was named Hui-te-ana-nui, and was home to all of the fish species. All of the poupou in the whare could speak. Te Manuhauturuki (or Manuruhi), the son of Ruatepupuke had been imprisoned in the house, and Ruatepupuke sought to rescue him – setting the house on fire, and the folk inside ran out; the first was Kanae (mullet) … then came Maroro (flying fish) … then came Kōkiri (trigger fish) … But most of Tangaroa’s children were destroyed. As the fish escaped, each was scarred in some way – which is why all species have different traits and colours. Ruatepupuke stood at the entrance of the whare and struck at the other fish as they fled the whare – leaving them disfigured and reshaped as flying fish, stingray, flounder, hammerhead shark, octopus, snapper and other ocean dwellers. Ruatepupuke took the carvings from the wharenui, which is the origin of carving in Māori culture.
Today Māori carvings tell their stories in the adornment of surface design and tribal styles, allowing man to communicate issues of morality, values, sacredness and wisdom.
Te Whare Hukahuka o Tangaroa represents all of the ocean’s domain, and is a metaphor for the diversity of all of the unique life forms and natural qualities of the ocean. The Hukahuka reflects the ever-changing moods of the ocean, and the many faces of Tangaroa. It reflects the birth of creativity – Tangaroa’s house of creativity.