Waharoa (Gateway) - The gateway into Te Puia is marked by a set of five carved waharoa, each slightly smaller than the first. Each of the layers of the waharoa represents, according to Māori, the 5 stages of development in the creation of the physical world. The stages start with the initial reaction of atmospheric gases through to the development of a flourishing natural world. Through this portal visitors enter the Te Heketanga-a-Rangi (Heavenly Origins), representing the spiritual beliefs of Māori. This space opened in 2007 as part of a major redevelopment project at Te Puia.
Te Heketanga-a-Rangi (Heavenly Origins) - welcomes manuhiri (visitors) into Te Puia, while acknowledging our creation stories, the foundation of our worldview. Twelve monumental posts spiral skywards towards the heavens, each representing a divine realm in Te Arawa culture. The posts are embellished by steel kōwhaiwhai (visual art works) created by renowned designer Carin Wilson and consist of two sets, each set ascending upwards.
At the top of each set are carved representations of our cosmos. One set, Te Ara Tapu (the sacred pathway), represents constellations to guide our wairua (spirits) back to our spiritual homeland of Hawaiki. The other set represents constellations to guide harvesting in the physical world. Each of the realms has a carved guardian at its base, designed and carved by Te Puia's Carving School.
Like most cultures, Māori have traditions and stories about unions between gods and mortals. In this space our guides will tell you the story of Puhaorangi (Gentle Breath of Heaven), who guards the first realm and his half-mortal son, Ohomairangi (Surprise from Heaven), the principle ancestor of Te Arawa people. Prior to leaving the original homeland in the Pacific, the tribal name for Te Arawa was Ngāti Ohomairangi. The term ‘Te Heketanga-a-Rangi’ or ‘Heavenly Origins’ was coined to remember Te Arawa’s connection to Puhaorangi.
Each of the carved guardians has been designed wearing a korowai (cloak). The carved designs of the cloaks symbolise the deity’s characteristics or represent the realm they protect. Each of the guardians is portrayed with a closed cloak, except 'lo Matua Kore' whose cloak reveals 'Te Ara Poutama a Tawhaki' - the pathway to enlightenment.
Io resides in the uppermost realm and is the most sacred of all the deities. In the beginning it was Io that created Ranginui (skyfather) and Papatūānuku (earth mother).