Te Papa's Marae – Rongomaraeroa 

Te Marae 

Learning areas

  • Social Studies
  • The Arts – Visual Arts
  • Mathematics

Which strands will it fit with?

  • Social Studies: Place and Environment, Identity, Culture, and Organisation 
  • The Arts: Understanding the Visual Arts in Context
  • Mathematics: Geometry 

Key competencies

Thinking; Relating to others; Using language, symbols, and text; Participating and contributing.

Levels of achievement

Levels 1–8

Year group

Years 1–13

Back to the top

Which topics of study can it support?

  • Pūrākau – storytelling
  • Innovation and invention
  • Mathematics and society
  • New Zealand art and artists 

How long might this take?

Allow 15–20 minutes to explore all the different parts of Te Marae.
Note that you don't need to remove your shoes to visit this marae, but you are welcome to.

Back to the top

Where do I find it?

  • Level 4, off Mana Whenua.
  • Lost? Ask a Te Papa Host.

Why should I take my class to visit the marae?

  • Rongomaraeroa is a unique marae concept and design created by leading Māori artists.
  • It is a fantastic example of using modern art techniques to tell traditional stories.
  • It is an authentic, living, working marae. 
  • Rongomaraeroa belongs to everyone, through a shared whakapapa (genealogy) and the mana (power) of the taonga (treasures) held in Te Papa's collections.

Back to the top

What is there to do there?

  • Explore the wharenui (meeting house), right up to the back wall, and look at the designs.
  • Use the rubbing block (permanently fixed) to fill out your own whakapapa (genealogy) sheet at the desk in the wharenui.
  • If the weather is fine, go outside to the waharoa (gateway), and look at all the different carvings on the gate. Also check out the artworks in the Te Āti Awa gateway on your way out.
  • Notice the flag flying. It signals the iwi (tribe) in residence – whichever is the subject of Te Papa's latest iwi exhibition. The flag also indicates the kawa or protocol to be used on The Marae during a pōwhiri, or Māori welcoming ceremony.  These protocols differ from iwi to iwi.
  • Do the pōwhiri (Māori welcoming ceremony) interactive.

Back to the top

What should I know about this?

Creating Rongomaraeroa

  • Rongomaraeroa is the creation of master carver Cliff Whiting and the Māori advisory group to Te Papa, Ngā Kaiwawao. They came up with the idea of developing a fully functional marae, which would embrace the concept of mana taonga and the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The official opening was on 30 November 1997.
  • The name of Te Papa’s marae, Rongomaraeroa, comes from the name given to a place in the heavens by the atua, or Māori gods, where they could meet in peace to discuss and settle issues.

The wharenui (meeting house)

  • Its name is Te Hono ki Hawaiki, meaning the links to Hawaiki, the traditional homelands of the Māori. The kinship groups it represents encompass all the iwi and other cultures whose treasures and stories are held at Te Papa. This is particularly shown by the carving of the traditional story of Māui taming the sun, as depicted on the maihi (arms of the meeting house). Māui is an important figure in many Pacific cultures.
  • The stained glass door, made by Robert Jahnke, represents Ranginui, the sky father. The tiled flooring, designed by Kura Te Waru Rewiri, depicts Papatūānuku, the Earth mother. When the stained glass door is opened (it is pushed upward), it re-enacts the traditional Māori story of the separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku. The tukutuku (woven panels) on the walls were made by students from Toi Haukura, the Māori School of Design at the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne.
  • Another Māori story depicted along the roof of the meeting house is the creation of the first woman, Hineahuone (the woman made from sand), by her father Tāne Mahuta, the god of the forest. He is represented in the doorway of the meeting house. Other stories depicted inside the meeting house include that of Māui the trickster turning his brother-in-law, Irawaru, into a dog, and the story of Paikea the whale. 
  • New Zealand’s other cultures are represented along the back wall of the meeting house. The changing relationship between Māori and Pākehā is portrayed inside the cupboards housed in the poutokomanawa (the central heart post of the meeting house).

    Back to the top

Possible topics for discussion

  • Rongomaraeroa is your marae: what do you like about it?
  • How does Rongomaraeroa compare with Te Hau Ki Turanga – the more traditional wharenui nearby in the Mana Whenua exhibition on Level 4?
    Focus on the use of contemporary materials to tell traditional stories; compare and contrast techniques and effectiveness.
  • Do you recognise any of the stories or people represented in the wharenui? They include, Ranginui and Papatūānuku, Māui, Paikea, and Tāne Mahuta. Can you see any others?
  • Can you recognise any of the jobs shown on the back panels of the wharenui? Do these relate to you and your family?
  • What do you think the colours represent? Why did the artist choose them?
    The bright and beautiful colours are the same as those our ancestors would have seen in their own environment – the colours of flora and fauna, native birds, clay and mud, rock, the rays of the sun, and in rainbows. 
  • What are the different parts of Te Marae and the wharenui? 
    The main parts are the tekoteko (head), the maihi (arms), the amo (legs), the tāhuhu (backbone), the heke (ribs), and the poutokomanawa (central heart post).
  • What are the wharenui carvings made of? Why?
    It was decided to use custom wood, or MDF, instead of using traditional, native timbers, such as tōtara. As the carvings were mostly made by students, this meant precious native timbers would not be wasted if mistakes were made.
  • Can you see or find any repeating patterns or sequences? What shapes have been used? Are they two dimensional or three dimensional?

Back to the top

Further information


Related material

The following are all located close by Rongomaraeroa in the Mana Whenua exhibition on Level 4.

Back to the top