Saturday’s unveiling of traditional Maori carvings at Miropiko Reserve will not only recognise the historic significance of the site but also mark the return of what was once a common sight – pou on the Waikato riverside.
Miropiko Reserve is an historic Maori Pa site. Miropiko Pa was one of a number of pa built and occupied by Ngati Hanui, a sub tribe of Ngati Wairere. The pa was one of the last to be occupied until it was abandoned in 1864 prior to the arrival of British troops in the area. Some occupants resettled at Hukanui (Gordonton), whilst others settled in the King Country until 1881.
Saturday’s traditional Maori ceremony will unveil a number of carvings, including a carved pou-ihi and waimahuru.
Pou, shaped in the form of a canoe, were once common in ancient pa in pre-European times. In the mid 1840s the ancient practice of erecting an upright canoe structure to mark a historical site of an important chief was abandoned under the influence of Christianity. Miropiko’s carved pou portrays key ancestral high chiefs of Ngati Wairere and their related hapu, Ngati Hanui and Ngati Koura. These chiefs who once occupied Miropiko Pa are commemorated in the ancient carving patterns painted with kokowai.
Also to be unveiled at Miropiko, a structure named Waimahuru, recognises the name of a traditionally thatched meetinghouse which stood on Miropiko Pa site prior to the land wars of 1863. It is believed this house was dismantled, taken to and re-erected at Hukanui, Gordonton, by the original occupants of Miropiko Pa. In 1869 when land was being cleared by fire the original structure was accidentally burnt down. A carved amo (frontal house carving) believed to have stood at Miropiko and dating from the 1860s is now displayed in the Waikato Museum of Art & History.
A significant site in it’s own right, carvings at Miropiko Reserve form part of a growing number of Maori landmarks being developed throughout the city. Other sites include Featherstone Park and public art commissions like Resolution Drive. Miropiko Reserve in particular reflects Council’s commitment to enhance the sense of place surrounding city’s riverfront. Collectively the landmarks are realisations of the Creativity and Identity Strategy’s vision for an increasingly diverse and vibrant Hamilton.
In tribute to former team mate Aaron Hopa, whose ancestors originated from Miropiko Pa, Warriors and Waikato Chiefs players will carry the pou through neighbouring Thames Street and River Road to the site for blessing. Following ancient Maori ceremony and installation of the carvings, kaumatua Hare Puke and John Haunui will speak, followed by Hamilton Mayor Bob Simcock.