Why I want to return tukutuku panels to all wharenui up north

Like many indigenous cultures across the world, we have unique and highly renowned indigenous art practices here in Aotearoa. 

Art forms like tukutuku and whakairo (carving) can be seen adorning many marae. But, if you travel to the far north you’ll see an absence of these art forms in many of the whare you come across. Awhina Murupaenga (Ngāpuhi), wants this to change and is on a mission to bring tukutuku back to all whare across her region. 

As well as the beauty they hold, these unique Māori art forms hold deep significance and tell the stories of our past. The symbols and patterns used, connect all the way back to our atua (deities) and the beginning of time.

“Back in the day, there was no pen and paper to write down our stories and history.” says Awhina.

As a result of colonisation and the huge uptake of Christianity in the north, practices like these were phased out as colonial practices were adopted.

In 2021, Awhina created Whatu Creative, a business that aims to revive the many art forms of her people.

The tukutuku toi kit she created is taking a modern approach to tukutuku and giving people the opportunity to learn the practice of tukutuku through modern materials.

“It’s not a version that will replace our traditional techniques, but instead, the colours and patterns are inspired by traditional work.” says Awhina.

“The whole point is to inspire and invigorate people’s interest in this sort of practice.”

“What I really want for the area I’m from, is for everyone to have knowledge of tukutuku and for every meeting house in the Far North to be adorned in tukutuku.”

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