Whanganui descendants are keeping their traditions alive.

By Tema Hemi
  • North Island: West Coast

A Whanganui descendant is doing her part to revitalise a tradition that has almost been lost to its people.  Whanganui Mumu is a unique tukutuku design to the area and very few now have the knowledge to pass on to future generations. 

'Your move' is a term heard frequently in a game of chess, and it's what kids heard watching the early whalers play the game and the pattern emerged.

Whanganui elder Huia Kirk says, "The parents or grandparents composed a pattern, Whanganui ā Mumu (shortened to Whanganui Mumu) it was called, now Mumu was one word the children seemed to hear quite often, 'your move', in the game of chest that is said quite frequently."

A visit by Apirana Ngata, carvers and tukutuku panelists in the 1930's turned the tide for traditional art, among them was Pineamine Taiapa.

Kirk also says, "He was very involved and once he heard there was going to be a new church over here he saw it as a golden opportunity to foster Māori arts and crafts."

But Twomey says you hardly see anyone doing this type of work now. 

"You don't really see many people who have the acquired knowledge to do tukutuku or arapaki here in Whanganui.  We are very lucky to have the likes of Trina Taurua."

And the pattern known as Whanganui Mumu is unique to this area.

Twomey says, "Doing arapaki is challenging but Whanganui Mumu has its own uniqueness in terms of pattern so it has a lot of different dimensions.  The most commonly known patterns are Poutama, Kaokao, Riomata Toroa, Purapura Whetū, Takitoru, Pātiki, those are most common but on here are also Niho Taniwha, Whakarua Kōpito and Papakirangi."

Twomey hopes more of the river people will become involved in the revival of this unique pattern and share its knowledge with the up-and-coming generations.