18. Waka Huia - Treasure Box

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Whakarei or personal adornment is an important part of looking good and an expression of rank and status. You can see all sorts of whakarei here from neck ornaments like hei tiki and pekapeka, mau taringa or ear pendants, heru or combs, and rei puta or sperm whale tooth pendants. Many of these items are still worn today.

Hei tiki are the most common and highly prized neck pendants and most are made from pounamu. Pekapeka are less common – their form resembles the native bat which they are named after or two intertwined birds. Men wore their long hair in topknots and fixed them with heru made from wood and bone. You can also see a white-tipped huia feather on the bottom shelf, which are also worn in the hair.

Like all taonga or treasures, pieces of jewellery are often given personal names, creating a connection with the ancestors who wore them.

At the bottom of the case is a finely carved waka huia, a treasure box where rangatira kept prized ornaments like the ones in this case. Since most whakarei are worn about the head they are extremely tapu and so the contents of a waka huia are sacred. To keep them out of the reach these boxes were hung by cords on the interior rafters of a chief’s house. For this reason, the underneath of the waka huia is carved.

For the last stop on the trail, turn around and walk back towards the canoe Te Toki a Tāpiri, to the case on its left with taurapa or sternposts.

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