Pou tokomanawa (carved centre post)


Te Papa

Te Papa
Wellington, New Zealand

This pou (carved figure) comes from a poutokomanawa - the central pole of one of the three supporting posts within a wharenui or whare tupuna (Māori ancestral house). His face is decorated with a full facial moko (tattoo); his eyes are pāua (New Zealand abalone) shell inserts. His body is completely carved in the front, while his back is undecorated except for the carved legs. His right hand holds a wahaika (short-bladed weapon used in hand to hand combat) and he wears a piupiu (flax skirt).

WharenuiWharenui are iconic symbols of Māori customs, genealogical ties, identity, and social bonds. The houses, elegantly and elaborately carved, contain the memorialised representations of ancestors from which the people who belong to the house are directly descended. The practice of ancestral representation within wharenui comes with its own protocols and sacred associations. The representation of an ancestor is more than a signifier of that person, it is considered as potent as if the ancestor remained standing in front of you.


  • Title: Pou tokomanawa (carved centre post)
  • Creator Gender: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1800
  • Physical Dimensions: w230 x h1010 x d145 mm
  • Type: Pou tokomanawa
  • Rights: Purchased 1989
  • External Link: Te Papa
  • Medium: Wood, paua shell
  • Carver: Unknown

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