About the carvings

In 1976, traditional marae-taught carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell paddled past a rock alcove on Lake Taupo and had a vision of a tattooed face. Over the course of four years, Matahi led a team of four artists to create a spectacular carving of his ancestor Ngatoroirangi.

Digital representation of Ngatoroirangi by Sarah Turner


  1. TikiTiki is the top knot that sits at the very top of Ngatoroirangi's head. This represents Ngatoroirangi's ability to communicate to the highest god in the Maori culture - lo Matua Kore.
  2. Matakite spiritual eye representing the sixth sense. It is depicted here in the centre of the forehead because Ngatoroirangi was a visionary who could divine information from the past, present and future.
  3. Aho/Mauri starts at the tip of the nose and runs up the centre of the nose, through the forehead to the bottom of the TikiTiki. This represents the connection to the spiritual realm.
  4. Te Haa is the spirit wind and is depicted on the bridge of Ngatoroirangi's nose. This represents discernment and intuition. Ngatoroirangi was a master of this.
  5. Whatukura is the design on the upper lip of Ngatoroirangi's face. It depicts the angel that represents the White Kotuku, the most sacred bird in Maori culture. The White Kotuku carried the three baskets of knowledge from the spiritual realm to earth.
  6. Matakokiri is the design that runs over Ngatoroirangi's top and bottom lip. It is symbolic of the waka (canoe) belonging to Puhaorangi, a powerful god from the celestial realm, and ancestor of Ngatoroirangi's.
  7. Mareikura is depicted on Ngatoroirangi's chin. It symoblises the Hokioi (Haast Eagle) who is the messenger between God and man. These two angel symbols (including Whatakura) on Ngatoroirangi's face gave him the highest rank of a Tohunga Ahurei - high priest.
Surrounding Ngatoroirangi are smaller sculptures. These carvings depict tupuna (ancestors) and kaitiaki (guardians) that are pivotal to the history of the local Maori tribe. 
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