Te Ahi Tupua
In 2015, Rotorua Lakes Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency agreed to enter into a partnership to commission a large-scale artwork to become the centrepiece for upgrades to the intersection of State Highway 5 and 30, the roundabout at the southern entrance to Rotorua.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency invested $7.3 million into constructing a roundabout to replace what was New Zealand's fourth riskiest intersection due to the high crash rate. Construction started in April 2016 and was completed in December 2017.
In November 2015, Council put out a call to artists across Aotearoa for expressions of interest to produce the artwork. In the first two months of 2016, an independent panel narrowed down the 13 expressions of interest received to five concepts. In April 2016 the panel unanimously selected the design submitted by New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute |Te Puia.
Following initial challenges in finding a contractor to construct the sculpture from steel, Kilwell Fibretube approached Council in December 2017 with a proposal to build Te Ahi Tupua from composite materials. Te Ahi Tupua is a world-first for a composite structure of its size.
Te Whakaawenga Hoahoa - Design Inspiration
Te Ahi Tupua weaves the stories of Ngātoroirangi, connections to other tribal groups and manaakitanga (hospitality).
Inspired by the world famous Pōhutu Geyser at Te Puia, the vortex incorporates different forms of geothermal energy. The flames link metaphorically to te ahi kā, keeping the home fires burning, reflecting the importance of tangata whenua, iwi kāinga and mana whenua.The co ncept of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) envelopes Te Ahi Tupua, highlighting the importance of caring for our environment through the generations.
Soaring 12m into the air, Te Ahi Tupua reaches skyward, acknowledging the pursuit of learning and knowledge. Elements of navigation, both ancient and modern, are also expressed, reflecting the people of the area - past, present and future.
Specialising in weaving and traditional wood and stone carving, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute developed the contemporary concept for Te Ahi Tupua. Stacy Gordine led the design, which embraced new technologies and materials.
He Korero Tuku Iho o Te Ahi Tupua | Historical Account of Geothermal Origins
Ngātoroirangi was the esteemed spiritual navigator of the Te Arawa waka that carried ancestors here from Hawaiki.
Te Arawa made landfall at Maketū and Ngātoroirangi travelled inland arriving at Mount Tongariro (in the central North Island), where he was caught in a blizzard. In desperation, he called for his sisters Kuiwai and Haungaroa, in Hawaiki, to save him.
The sisters filled six baskets with glowing embers and sent forth Te Pupu and Te Hoata, the subterranean guardians of fire, to deliver the baskets of heat.
The pair plunged deep into the earth travelling to Aotearoa. Embers were left behind where they surfaced at Whakaari (White Island), Moutohorā (Whale Island), Rotoiti, Tarawera, Rotorua, Ōrākei Korako, Wairakei, Tokaanu, and finally Ketetahi at Tongariro, with just one precious kete of fire left to save Ngātoroirangi.
Today, the path travelled by Te Pupu and Te Hoata is recognised by a string of geothermal features at the points where they surfaced. This geothermal trail recounts the arrival of Te Arawa in Aotearoa, and memorialises historic connections.
Ko Te Whakapapa | Explaining the Layers
Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru o Te ArawaThe Eight Beating Hearts of Te Arawa
The eight main bands and tips each represent the major ancestors from whom all Te Arawa tribes descend - Rātōrua, Rākeiao, Rangiaohia, Rangiwhakaekeau, Tauruao, Kawatapuārangi, Apumoana, Tūhourangi.
Kātua | Inner Helix
The inner vortex symbolises the mana (spiritual power) of Ngātoroirangi and reaches skyward as a call to his sisters, Kuiwai and Haungaroa.
Pekerangi | Outer Helix
The four main outer bands symbolise compass points of people from the four winds, as well as highlighting cultural diversity and how people of different origins remain both distinct but connected.
Whakakī | Interconnection
The whakakī (joiners) represent connection and symbolise the joining of energies from the earth mother and sky father, Papatūānuku and Ranginui. They also remind us of the interconnectedness of people - past, present and future.
Manaia/Wheku | Guardians of Fire
The two figures either side of Te Ahi Tupua signify Te Pupu and Te Hoata, the two subterranean guardians of fire. The smaller manaia heads within these figures represent the kete filled with fire.
The four designs at the base embody the essence of Te Pupu and Te Hoata and the subterranean journey they took to bring heat and fire from Hawaiki to Aotearoa.