Koruru (gable mask)


Te Papa

Te Papa
Wellington, New Zealand

This large, figuratively decorated kōruru or parata (gable mask) was carved with metal chisels, probably in the mid to late 19th century. The proportions of the face are exaggerated, with a large, pronounced forehead, broad nose, expansive eyelids over small ovoid eyes, and tiny ears. The mouth suggests a smile and the expression is that of a young, male face. Part of his moko (Māori customary tattoo) above the top lip is incomplete or missing. 

This kōruru is unusual because it is carved figuratively. There is a generally accepted convention that customary carving on whare tupuna were usually abstract representations. This particular kōruru breaks with that custom.  

KōruruWe do not know much about this particular kōruru, its origins or the people to whom it belonged. Kōruru are architectural features on large whare tupuna or wharenui (meeting houses) that join the two front facing maihi (barge boards) at the top apex. A kōruru's face is also the face of the represented tupuna (ancestor) embodied in the carved constructed form of the whare tūpuna.


  • Title: Koruru (gable mask)
  • Date Created: 1800
  • Location Created: New Zealand
  • Physical Dimensions: w400 x h540 x d230 mm
  • Type: Köruru
  • Rights: Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992
  • External Link: Te Papa
  • Medium: Wood
  • carver: Unknown
  • Object classification: Köruru
  • Material terms: wood

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