Tangata Whenua and Pasifika Pou

Carvers: Faimau Robati and Kerry Strongman


In October 2005 Kerry Strongman and Faimau Robati with funding from Creative New Zealand, began work on carving one of the 9 multi-ethnic pou. The pou was to be a combined Tangata Whenua, Tangata Pasifica collaboration. The totara log was inspected and selected. It still bore the scars of a fire it was rescued from.

The guidelines for carving the pou from Whangārei Tohunga Whakairo (Carver) Te Warihi Hetaraka was to represent the journey to and from the heavens, returning with the gift of the three baskets of knowledge, Nga Kete o te Wananga.

Apart from this they were given cultural carte blanche in transforming the totara log into a work of art. Kerry and Faimau spent many hours agonising, over translating this simple but complex concept into the carved pou. After much soul-searching and debate they decided to simply stand two traditional figures back to back in all their traditional, historical, spiritual and cultural glory.

Kerry and Faimau consider themselves very blessed that they have a circle of wonderfully skilled and generous artisan friends who collaborated and helped with the creation of this pou. They humbly acknowledge all contributions toward this wonderful representation and example of and for all our people.

The pou dedication by Taunga Karakia Te Poave Araitia from the Cook Islands on 13 May 2006.

The story of Tangaroa/Tiki

It is said that in the beginning of time in the days of innocence of our great planet, earth was a veritable paradise. The earth was so beautiful and abundant in the most wondrous of all material things mankind could ever want or need. However, there was a great sadness, as there was something vital missing. No one knew what it was. The great wise ones of earth gathered together to decide what was to be done.

After a great time it was decided that the 'One' who had journeyed from the stars, who was the 'seed' of all mankind, Tangaroa/Tiki (the bravest and wisest of all) the first men (or man being one and the same), from the stars was chosen.

The council of the wise ones implored and prevailed upon him to return to the celestial realms to seek the great wisdom and knowledge of the Supreme Being, so that all mankind could learn and thus be complete. Tangaroa/Tiki, as the sole representative of all mankind, voyaged to the dark and mysterious void in the heavenly realms to receive the great wisdom and knowledge from The Supreme Being.

The Supreme Being gathered all the wisdom and knowledge from the four corners of the universe for Tangaroa/Tiki. The wisdom and knowledge was so voluminous it could not be carried in but one basket, but three.

Tangaroa/Tiki returned with these wondrous gifts in three baskets from the Supreme Being so Mankind would now move from the naivety of innocence, thus ignorance, into enlightenment.

Physical description of the pou

  • The top spire or cone
    This represents God / The Supreme-Being / The Great Spirit.
  • The copper sphere and horizontal cones
    Represent all the knowledge gathered from the four corners of the Supreme Beings Realm/s.
  • The copper band that joins the spheres, spire and four horizontal cones with the top of the timber of the pou
    Represents the link or bridge between the heavens and mortality, both physical and spiritual.
  • The triple spiral
    Represents 3 distinct things:
  1. They are symbolic of the Knowledge that was gifted from The Supreme Being from the four corners of the heavens to Tangaroa/Tiki (One and the same).
  2. The great journey of our deities to and from the heavens.
  3. The continuing flow and healing via knowledge and truth from the Supreme Being to mankind to help bring understanding, harmony and thus enlightenment.
  • The two back to back carved figures
    Tangaroa and Tiki (One and the same) who is/are the intermediaries between the Great Spirit and Mankind.

Tangaroa facing the library steadfastly guarding all the knowledge stored within. This is a dual role as not only the library and its vast wealth of knowledge is guarded but all those who would partake of the knowledge that is housed therein. All the time Tiki guards the back of Tangaroa and keeps safe all that will transpire there.

The Pou is unique in that one face guards into the actual library whilst the other stands guard facing the outer places. The surface carvings on the thighs and legs are for protection, enlightenment, integrity, justice and truth and are inviolate.

  • The copper-band with the figures holding hands at the feet of the carvings
    Represents all mankind.