Topic: Te Puna Wairua ō Kawerau

Topic type:

Te Puna Wairua ō Kawerau (The Spiritual Well of Kawerau) was carved by James Te Kuiti Stewart of the Mataatua and Horouta waka, and Thomas Hansen of Tauranga.

The piece, created from Oamaru sandstone, is located at the Fenton Mill Road entrance to the Monika Lanham Reserve in Kawerau and was completed on Friday 20 June 2008. Te Puna Wairua ō Kawerau was sponsored by Creative New Zealand, the Creative Communities Scheme, Kawerau District Council, Rotary Club of Kawerau and Monika Lanham's children and mokopuna in honour of her example to us all.

Its design depicts various concepts of the story of Kawerau including the inter-connection and progressive development of the town people, area and environment.

Local history tells of the birth of Tipuna 'Kawerau' while his mother was harvesting kiekie. Using this kiekie she made a whāriki (woven mat), wrapped him in it and presented him to the local iwi residing there. The newborn was named 'Kawerau' from 'kawe' meaning convey, carry, influence, messages and 'rau' being leaf, hundred points, to multiply, to catch in lattice.

Te Puna Wairua ō KawerauThis carving uses the Tahaa (calabash) form as the vessel to show the narrative of Kawerau. The Tahaa is an icon image in Maoridom and is used in many rituals and events. Some of the gourd's many uses included navigation, food storage, musical instruments and funerary functions. This versatility helped to foster an appreciation of the natural environment and some gourds were handed down through the generations.

The woven texture carved into the lip and bowl of Te Puna Wairua ō Kawerau refers to the whariki (woven mat) of Kawerau's birth and also the ongoing skill of the women and weavers that live in the town. They have woven a social integration with their skills that is reflected in the environmental resources and nurseries. There has been an interlacing of cultures and identities in Kawerau for many generations.

The frieze around the base of the carving of the rauru (spiral) and Tawhara (the flower of the kiekie eaten in days of old) symbolises the energy and determination that leads to enlightenment and satisfaction. The connecting Tawhara depicts the ongoing connection of the people to their land and district. This connection, that is alive and well today, highlights the relationship of the people and their commitment to the future existence of the district and land.

The design relief of the Kowhaiwhai (energies, struggle) symbolises the whakapapa (genealogy) of those already gone before us and the generations still to come. It represents people who exist in memory and heart and who we remember fondly in oration, song and chant.

The number three has significance in Maori philosophy and is often used in marae calling and welcomes, in carvings, weavings and in scroll and frieze paintings. In this carving the three kiekie seed heads at the base represent nourishment and sustenance.

Te Puna Wairua ō Kawerau is a monument, not only to the narrative of the Tipuna Kawerau, but also to the productiveness of the future of the people of Kawerau.


Te Puna Wairua ō Kawerau - The Spiritual Well of Kawerau pamphlet 

Image by Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion