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Waharoa

Taken from ‘Aotea Centre Works of Art’, edited by Tara Werner, written by Karen Scherer and Katherine Findlay.

‘Waharoa’ is a seven metre high gateway and stands at the entrance to Aotea Square, transforming it into a marae or meeting place, and Aotea Centre into a meeting house. Created by Selwyn Muru, ‘Waharoa’ is one of a series of pieces commissioned for Aotea Centre.

At the top of the gateway, five main symbols arise. Looking from Queen Street from the right, is Tama nui te Ra (God of the Sun). Next to him is Tangaroa, God of the Sea, seen in whale form, mounted by a myth-man. In the middle is Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest), who is depicted as a bird, and beside him is Tawhiri Matea (God of the Elements). On the far left, representing heavenly spheres, is Whetu me te Marama (the crescent moon and stars).

For the artist, tradition is not the only major element. The sculpture includes images from all over the Pacific and, while the shapes within it are rooted in mythology, its themes are contemporary. The arch itself consists of a multitude of busy images. There are birds, fish, the nuclear disarmament symbol, a cross, and a heart and arrow. Abstract images derive from Polynesian tapa cloth, and the triangular patterns form 19th century Maori art. The dog is inspired by one which belongs to Muru's friend and fellow-artist Paratene Matchitt.

Selwyn Muru: "The aim of this waharoa (gateway) is to welcome and embrace manuhiri to Aotea Square. I chose wood as a medium because it already has Mauri (life force) of its own that would exude warmth in an environment dominated by steel, glass and stone."

Muru carved with chainsaw and chisel, using huge pieces of macrocarpa. The verdigris effect on the work is caused by weathered copper which Muru “treated” with vinegar. Some of the heavier copper pieces came from Waitangi, where they once topped the old wharf piles. For Muru, this additional element is important; not only is the God of the Sea represented at Aotea Centre, but so is the artist's birthplace, Northland.