When exploring Whakarewarewa Village, you will come upon numerous tekoteko – wooden Māori carvings of human like figures. Fascinating and full of symbolism and cultural history, read more about these works of art that will greet you in the most unexpected places at Whakarewarewa.
What is a tekoteko?
Tekoteko is a Māori language term for carved, human like figures crafted to represent ancient tribal ancestors who instil general protection and guardianship over the tribe.
These striking figures are intricately designed by master carvers and are often the most focal point of the whare whakairo (carved tribal meeting house). They can also be found at the top of traditional meeting houses, at the front centre post, at the base of the poutokomanawa (central ridge support post) of the house or at the entrance of a marae.
Some tekoteko at Whakarewarea grounds are also freestanding so you are able view these up close.
What characteristics do tekoteko have?
Beautifully carved with detail and symbolism, tekoteko usually consist of deeply carved faces, a traditional top knot, facial tattoos, a protruding tongue, bulged eyes and a challenging stance.
What materials are used in crafting teketeko?
Traditional tekoteko are carved using New Zealand native wood such as tōtara and rata trees. Paua shells are often used for the eyes.
How many tekoteko are in Whakarewarewa village?
There are around 80 tekoteko in our pā (village) and most are easy to locate. However, there are a few that are situated in restricted areas along geothermal land – like the tekoteko near the Pohutu Geyser lookout/viewing platform 1. Please be mindful of your surroundings and pay attention to signage around the village so you stay on the right track.
Who are the different kaitiaki represented in the tekoteko at Whakarewarewa?
Tekoteko at Whakarewarewa act as kaitiaki (guardians) to ward off evil spirits. The tekoteko you will find at Whakarewarewa Village represent a range of different kaitiaki and the people of the village.
Who carved them?
The tekoteko in the village are historical, very old, with some dating back to the 1920s. They have all done by carvers from Whakarewarewa Village including master carver Paora Tamati who is also buried in the village. We do our best to maintain and preserve our tekoteko and have repainted them every few years.
Are there protocols or traditions that visitors need to respect upon viewing them?
As with any other Māori traditions, please be mindful and respectful of the tekoteko. Please do not put sunglasses or hat on tekoteko. We also believe that when there are two tekoteko facing inwards, it is safer to walk inside of them than outside.