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The Dowse Reopens Nuku Tewhatewha - Aotearoa’s Last Known Ngā Pou O Te Kīngitanga

Following an extensive refurbishment, The Dowse Art Museum reopens Nuku Tewhatewha - the only known intact pātaka of seven or eight built as symbols of support for the Kīngitanga (Māori King) Movement - to the public on 30 October 2020.

Situated in the heart of The Dowse, this permanent display offers visitors a chance to explore the pātaka in a warm and light-filled space with new story-telling graphics, digital and interactive activities, and contemporary artwork.

Nuku Tewhatewha, symbolising a long history of Māori leadership and land rights, is one of Te Awa Kairangi Hutt Valley’s greatest taonga. Commissioned by Wiremu Tako Ngātata (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Ruahinerangi, Ngā iwi o Taranaki) and built in 1856 under master carver Te Heuheu Tūkino IV (Horonuku), he is one of the buildings created in support of the Kīngitanga Movement - and the only one that survives intact today.

For over 90 years, Nuku Tewhatewha was in the care of the Beetham whānau and in 1982 was returned home to Te Awa Kairangi. "Nuku Tewhatewha stands as a tangible symbol of the Māori struggle for freedom and equality in our nation," says Catherine Love (Te Āti Awa nui nonu, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Ruahinerangi, Ngā iwi o Taranaki), descendant of Wiremu Tako Ngātata. "The commitment of the Beetham whānau in caring for and protecting Nuku Tewhatewha, over many years, reflects the shared desire of Wiremu Tako Ngātata and William Beetham for their two peoples, Māori and Pākehā, to live and work together in equality and friendship."

Darcy Nicholas (Kāhui Maunga, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Ruanui, Tauranga Moana, Ngāti Hauā), contemporary Māori artist explains, "Wiremu Tako Ngātata was a Paramount Chief of Te Āti Awa and had a vision of peace and the building of a strong nation for his Māori people and the Pākehā settlers. That belief was carried on by succeeding generations of his family and the Beetham family who protected the pātaka and returned it to the greater Wellington area."

Edward Beetham, descendent of William Beetham, adds, "When Nuku Tewhatewha was at Brancepeth (Wairarapa), he was a revered part of the family and the property. He was always the story of the promise made and kept between Māori and Pākehā - as children we used to play on him, but we still learnt a huge amount of respect for what he stood for. He was part of us."

The newly refurbished gallery offers a new way of experiencing Nuku Tewhatewha and his unique history. It aims to enhance visitors’ appreciation and understanding of his symbolism and it provides the space and opportunity to learn more about this pātaka and his story in greater detail than before. "The idea was for Nuku Tewhatewha’s story and significance to be more accessible to all visitors, both for whānau and iwi as well as those meeting Nuku Tewhatewha for the first time," says Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi, Te Uriroroi), Director of The Dowse.

"The new look space offers a more welcoming way to spend time with Nuku Tewhatewha," observes Chitham, noting that while there are no changes to the pātaka, there is more historical information on display.

"We have worked directly with members of the Love and Beetham whānau, as well as with individuals from hapū and iwi, alongside gathering information and perspectives from a variety of knowledge-holders across various disciplines, including whakairo, the Kīngitanga, archives, whakapapa and history."

The reopening of Nuku Tewhatewha was celebrated with dignatories from Te Āti Awa on 30 October 2020, following which it is open to the public.

A short history of Nuku Tewhatewha

Nuku Tewhatewha is recognised as one of Te Awa Kairangi’s greatest treasures. Built in 1856, he is the only known intact pātaka of seven or eight known as Ngā Pou o te Kīngitanga (The Pillars of the Kingdom) that were carved across the North Island as symbols of support for the Kīngitanga (Māori King) Movement.

Commissioned by Wiremu Tako Ngātata (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Ruahinerangi me etehi ano o ngā iwi o Taranaki), Nuku Tewhatewha was built by Ngāti Tūwharetoa tohunga whakairo Te Heuheu Tūkino IV (Horonuku).

The journey of this pātaka began in 1856 in Te Mako, the residence of Wiremu Tako Ngātata in Te Ngaengae (Naenae), where he was carved by Horonuku and his team of carvers. The land at Te Mako was bought by a Yorkshireman, William Beetham, and in 1861 it was agreed that Nuku Tewhatewha would be cared for by Beetham. The agreement was maintained after their deaths by Beetham’s third son, George, and in 1888/89, Nuku Tewhatewha was moved to his home in Thorndon, Wellington. He remained there until 1912, when he was transferred to Brancepeth Station, Wainuioru, which was owned by Hugh Beetham. Here the promise of kaitiakitanga was maintained and he was looked after by subsequent generations of the Beetham family until 1982, when a group of Te Āti Awa elders, led by Sir Makere Rangiatea Ralph' Love, a great grandson of Wiremu Tako Ngātata, accompanied the Tribal Tohunga, Ruka Broughton and Rangitihi Tahuparae, to bring Nuku Tewhatewha back to Te Awa Kairangi.

The important relationship between Wiremu Tako Ngātata and the Beetham family is a story about the making of a nation. This was a positive relationship between a Māori leader and a Pākehā family. They saw the future of a strong and unique nation.

The Dowse Art Museum is a free public gallery for people to enjoy contemporary art and culture. Open 10am-5pm daily, The Dowse is located at 45 Laings Road in Lower Hutt, just a 15 minute drive from Wellington City.

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