Tamatea was an explorer. He used a canoe for long sea and river journeys. He had with him three pets - a dog, a lizard and a seagull.
You can tell the carving is Tamatea because it has his pet lizard and his pet dog at his feet and his pet seagull above his left shoulder.
A tiki figure is between the legs because Tamatea had many children.
One of his children was Kahungunu. He was the founder of the Hawkes Bay tribe. There was once a Māori Pa, the Tamatea Marae.
The carving of Tamatea shows a topknot above his head and the long club (taiaha) by his side.
The carving is traditional. The body is decorated with lines and scrolls (water motif).
There are twenty two pieces of paua shell in the carving.
The carving is made from Totara wood. It is stained deep brown red (Religious significance for Māori).
Mr John Fowler, of Hastings carved the figure especially for the school. It took about five weeks. He spent sometimes twelve hours carving at a stretch.
Mr Fowler said, “You must not offend Māori. Every detail on the carving means something to them”.
The carving stands two metres tall and was originally in the Tamatea Primary office.
Miss Vida Edser, a retired High School teacher from Napier donated the money to buy the carving for Tamatea Primary School. In December 1974, she unveiled the carving. The carving was dedicated at the ceremony by Canon R. H. Rangiihu.
Tamatea the explorer was believed to have perished near the Huka Falls.
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