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Weta Workshop unveils New Zealand’s ‘largest masterpiece’

Descendants of the Poutini Ngāi Tahu Warrior Chief, Tūhuru, have travelled to Wētā Workshop in Wellington to bless the first-ever hyper-realistic representation of their ancestor, as part of the eagerly awaited tourism experience, the Pounamu Pathway.

The Pounamu Pathway will consist of four interconnected experience centres – Māwhera (Greymouth), Awarua (Haast), Kawatiri (Westport) and Hokitika – each serving as a gateway to captivating and emotive visitor experiences.

Visitors will encounter the sheer grandeur of the 2.4:1 scale hyper-realistic figure of Tūhuru, at the Māwhera centre, set to open in December 2023.

The breathtaking representation of the early West Coast chief has evolved from a unique collaboration between Poutini Ngāi Tahu and Wētā Workshop. Uri (descendants) of Tūhuru have been pivotal in the creation of the intricately detailed sculpture, from designing the tā moko (traditional tattoo) to crafting the accessories including the pounamu hei tiki (pendant worn around the neck), mere (weapon) and kāpeu (earring).

“What an honour it has been to work with Poutini Ngāi Tahu to uphold the mana of their ancestor and experience the heartfelt emotion today, as his descendants gathered to bless him for his journey home to Māwhera. Our team at Wētā Workshop are extremely proud to be a part of this incredible project,” said Rehua Wilson, Design Lead, Wētā Workshop.

Master carver, Bevan Climo (Ngati Māhaki) skilfully carved the pounamu 2.4:1 scale hei tiki, showcasing a remarkable blend of artistic talent, technical skill, and cultural insight. The creation of the larger-than-life sculpture’s woven accessories, including the kākahu (cloak), maro (loin cloth), and tātua (belt), also demanded the same set of skills and talent. Dedicated weavers devoted many hours to crafting these items, with the cloak measuring around two metres by three metres in size. Over 1700 hours’ work has been completed in creating the accessories alone.

The tā moko that will adorn Tūhuru has been designed by carver, Fayne Robinson (Ngati Māhaki), master carver of the Tūhuru wharenui (meeting house) at Arahura marae, Hokitika and Te Tauraka Waka a Māui Marae at Makaawhio.

“Collaborating with Wētā Workshop has been an amazing experience. The detailed research they have undertaken with Ngāti Waewae and Ngāti Māhaki representatives, together as Poutini Ngāi Tahu, has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on a representation of our tipuna, Tūhuru,” said Fayne.

Blessing the sculpture presents a unique and poignant moment to pay tribute to Tūhuru, honouring the contributions and sacrifices he made for the prosperity of his people.

The blessing also offers spiritual protection of the sculpture as it embarks on the journey to Te Tai o Poutini (West Coast of the South Island), to be positioned at the Māwhera (Greymouth) experience of the Pounamu Pathway, poised to inspire and awe visitors from near and far.


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