A whare nikau
rises from the past.
the early days our ancestors made the most of everything they could find
in the bush.
provided them with the materials with which to survive by creating shelter
and warmth but there were other ancestral gods who joined with Tane to provide a
secure environment in which to live in peace with nature.
ensured the rivers and lakes were filled with fish while Rongo-Ma-Tane
provided plants that could be cultivated to supply foods that could be stored
for the long cold winters or for times of drought.
the ancestors of Tu forgetting the ways of the past?
some of these skills are being lost but Mangatowai is determined that those
that are slipping into legend are returned to life for the benefit of the
current and future generations of all races in our wonderful country.
step into the future by going back to the past is clearly visible on the
Mangatowai site - a whare nikau
built according to the ways of our ancestors.
old days the Maori used nikau leaves as thatching for
the roof and walls of the whare with a frame built
from manuka. A
whare built like this is as strong and watertight as
if made of iron or timber.
The nikau is the only native palm of New Zealand and can grow up to 15m high. It is found in coastal and warmer inland forests of the North Island. It is also abundant on the north-west coast
of the South Island as well as on
Peninsula and the Chatham Island,
so it was a readily available source of building materials.
But it's value in the past was not restricted to just being a
resource for building. The leaves were
woven into baskets and kete. Nikau
leaves are still used by trampers and hunters as good thatching for bush
shelters (see above picture of a nikau thatching panel) and the padding in a camp mattress.
The nikau also provided a source of medicine. It was used as a laxative and because it
relaxes pelvic muscles it was used in childbirth to make labour
easier, but it was also useful in cases of diarrhea.
flower and fruit
of the palm takes about one year to ripen and the native pigeon and other birds
feast on the ripening berries and disperse the seed through the bush to ensure
survival of this graceful and moist useful plant.
A gallery of the work in progress
David Henare welcomes visitors and his construction team, explaining the
programme for the day.
Construction begins, sorting
out the manuka poles that will form the framework.
Slowly the skeleton rises from
the grass - note the bracing that is necessary to hold the frame steady in the
The ladies start work
weaving the nikau palm fronds that will form the first layer of the thatching.
The skeleton takes shape.
The frame is held
together with string - in the old days this was made from the heart of the nikau
palm. Fonzo Heihei (right picture) is lashing a cross beam to the main
The frame stands proud and firm
while David Henare (right) lays the first of the woven nikau panels over the
Visitors Marion Parkin and Jan Jones
(Taupo Bay) watch on while David Henare shows the lashing system to Sue
Turner (principle Oruaiti School)
Weaving can be hard work - from left
Queenie (Murupara), Mihi Hohepa (Rotorua), Annie Martin and Cheryl Farland in
action weaving the base panels for the roof.
David Henare adds more panels to the
More nikau fronds are layered over
the woven panels then external ridge poles are lashed over the top to hold them
in place - doing this work are (from left) J R Crum, Mihi Hohepa, David Henare,
Mario Grzinic and Sam Crum
Two views of the completed
The first occupants giving the
wharenikau a test drive.