Te Pou Herenga Tangata

Te Pou Herenga Tangata is the kaitiaki/guardian of Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha.

He aha te mea nui o te ao | What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata | It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

- Māori proverb

Te Pou Herenga Tangata stands proudly at the Faculty of Engineering’s Grafton Road entrance on the University’s City Campus. It is our pou whenua, and the mauri/life essence and the kaitiaki/guardian of our faculty.

Carved by master carver Delani Brown (Ngāti Whātua, Tūwharetoa, Raukawa, Tainui) from matai, a native pine, Te Pou Herenga Tangata links us to the past, present, and future. It symbolises our connection — as well as our values, diversity, culture, uniqueness, and contributions to whānau — to the whenua, to the people, to those who are here, and to those who are yet to come.

Concept drawing by Delani Brown, 21 March 2019

Pou whenua are traditionally used by Māori to mark places of significance or territorial boundaries, and ours acknowledges the history and importance of the place Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha stands on. It links us to the history of the whenua, the nearby Waipapa marae, as well as other significant artworks such as Te Toka Kāmaka o Waipārūrū located in the Business School, of which it overlooks.

Te Pou Herenga Tangata is a name gifted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei at the official opening of our new building at dawn in December 2019. It translates to the “bond or connection of the people”, and refers to our vision of a place where all people are welcome to weave in their history, knowledge, and creativity to contribute to Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha.

Our pou represents values such as whakawhanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga of people and mātauranga, creativity, innovation, diversity and collective wisdom. At every section, the pou is carved with these values in mind.

According to Delani, the pou has four faces, to acknowledge the four faces of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, the mana whenua of this area. These faces come down the centre of the top section, through the diamond shape in the middle and back into the lower section. The latter refers to the people, as well as acknowledging Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Ngāti Paoa.

Everything and every symbol in the pou has layers of meaning.

Delani Brown

The following guide is adapted from Delani’s kōrero on his creation of Te Pou Herenga Tangata.

Runga | the top

Everything about the tūī becomes something for us to follow. They are our tuakana; they are up high because that is what the birds can do.

Delani Brown

At the very top of the pou are two tūī — a native Aotearoa species common to Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

They are the two manaia, which in Māori culture is a guardian with abilities to cross from the spiritual world to the human world. They additionally acknowledge Ngāti Whātua — and the four atua/ancestors, ”the people of the four winds gather here, the four elements which without them, we have no life.”

The shape of the tip where the tūī rests symbolically acknowledges Rangitoto. There is a whetū/star in the middle; each point representing our five unique engineering departments in equal weight combining into a fully-formed object.

It’s encapsulated in an eye, which “acknowledges everything the engineers acknowledge”: Kaitiakitanga past, present and future, and how this is all embedded within us; the whanaungatanga, which is our relationship through shared experience. Its ‘eyeball’ refers to our understanding that wherever we go to do our mahi/work, we use our knowledge and we build on it. This requires an understanding of the identity of Māori and our history of colonisation.

We need to understand what was lost in order for us to be present here today.

Delani Brown

From the ‘eye’ down, is “the energy of artistic brilliance and beauty” accented with the tail of the whai/stingray. According to Delani, the whai is the strength and the mana. It flows as it does in the water, which represents the wai — Waipapa, and the water that falls from heaven.

From these waters, our journey is that we descend to ascend again and step back up into the fourth dimension. We should be raising ourselves up to the fourth dimension.

Delani Brown

Wē | the middle

This section of the pou acknowledges the people of the past, present and future. The tuatara represents the kaitiaki of Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Paoa, and Mokopuna. The curves towards the tuataras feet are unaunahi (fish scale design), a pattern found throughout the Māori world; this one in particular carved in a Ngāti Whātua style.

“The tuatara are the kaitiaki of that whenua.” – Delani Brown

There are four scales visible here; each one representing a different domain:

  • The mineral world, Papatūānuku, which solidified and crystallised what we’re on
  • The plant world,Tāne, who made a cloak for his mother from Tama-nui-te-rā/the sun, then the birds game because they could only come after the plant world, the animal kingdom, and then us, the people
  • The brown lizards, whilst in some ways can be seen as signs of death, are actually a symbol of life, used to keep villages clean and tidy. Delani explains, “when our people had asthma, they would take the stomach out of the brown lizard, boil it, and drink it.”
  • Like in the top section, the pūngāwerewere appears again, representing the web of life or the tree of life, which we all belong to

We are all part of the web of life. Something in our culture and our ancestors would mimic nature because they knew that they were one with nature.

Delani Brown

The Moko Kauae

There is no pou whenua without Papatūānuku. It is all done.

Delani Brown

Finally, the lowest section of the pou and its closest section to the ground, the Moko Kauae, acknowledges Papatūānuku, the land and the earth-mother of whom all living things originate. She is fundamental to us, and for Delani, he includes the unaunahi again here to ensure that these links and the hapū are embedded in every part of the pou.