A tale of two wharenui, transforming our approach to heritage
10 June 2021
How did New Zealand and the UK work together to secure the return of Hinemihi o Te Ao Tawhito, the wharenui who saved the lives of 153 people in the Tarawera eruption in 1886, who has spent 127 years of her life in Clendon, in Earl Onslow’s Surrey estate?
The story of Hinemihi is a tale of volcanoes, fire and intrigue, one that spans three centuries and many years of complex heritage negotiations, culminating in her planned return to Te Wairoa, representing a radical shift in our approach to heritage.
Professor Anthony Hoete, School of Architecture and Planning, has been a key negotiator in the return of Hinemihi and will talk about his experiences in The Tale of Two Whare: Hinemihi and Tāne Whirinaki, at Objectspace.
While based in the UK, where he was director of RIBA Chartered Practice and WHAT Architecture, Dr Hoete was Chair of Te Maru O Hinemihi from 2012-2020, and worked with the National Trust (the legal owners of Hinemihi) and Ngāti Hinemihi of Tūhourangi ( Hinemihi's spiritual owners).
This involved Dr Hoete reshaping the Friends of the National Trust (NT) to form a Community Interest Company, of which he is still one of two directors. His role has helped create an alliance that puts two parties, Māori and Pākeha on the same side of what will inevitably be an ongoing process of complex negotiations.
The current agreement involves Hinemihi’s deteriorated carvings being sent on permanent loan to Te Wairoa, in return for others carved to the fuller, original dimensions for Hinemihi at Clendon Park.
Dr Hoete will also talk about mīmiro, a building technique – specifically, a form of post-tensioning - which gave wharenui and other buildings remarkable structural stability. The technique, which is often hidden from view and is only beginning to be understood, preceded the colonial methods of building, and the use of nails.
He will also talk about potential reconstruction of Tāne Whirinaki, the whare rununga (house of assembly) of Ngātira hapū, Ōpōtiki, using mīmiro.
Dr Hoete says knowledge of mīmiro is ‘endangered’ knowledge.“While the knowledge of mīmiro has not yet been lost it is in danger of disappearing.
“It’s a matter of urgency, that we better understand and document and treasure a practice that exemplifies Māori building knowledge, which we’re only beginning to understand.”
This is a post-Dickensian tale of two whare.
One female, one male.
One standing, naked. One lying, in pieces.
One experienced a volcano, the other an earthquake.
One is in the UK, one in NZ.
Both are whare whakairo, both are whare tūpuna.
Both are whare wananga as they teach us something about architecture Aotearoa.
Both require political navigation to see them stand again on their tūrangawaewae.
Both will challenge the way we will look at whare, our ‘future ancients’.
- Anthony Hoete
Margo White I Media adviser
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