Te Pātūnui O Aiō

Te Pātūnui O Aiō is an exhibition created for the Little River Gallery in August 2020 and features paintings by Robin Slow and carvings by Brian Flintoff. Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir, Solomon Rahui and Bob Bickerton have created a sound track to support the kaupapa of the exhibition.

The video, which can be found at the bottom of this page, supports stories from the exhibitions through exploring details from the visual elements, all set to the music soundtrack. We invite you to explore the exhibition - click on images to enlarge them.

The Story Behind Te Pātūnui O Aiō

The great boundary of calm at or on the distant horizon, the place that is held in the mind that is beyond, always out of reach, untouchable. Te Pātūnui o Aiō is the place of mists and time the great navigators and travellers came from.

From the land we look back, look beyond to this horizon and as we shift our eyes, we shift the view or perspective. We see the great heavens of Ranginui with its myriad of tīpuna stars each holding
a history to tell. We hear the pūtaratara sounding, connecting and binding one realm with another. The manu connect with their flight and song, crossing the boundaries and rising above or standing still, grasping, holding firmly. The story is told of Rehua, seen in the night sky, gifting Tāne his younger brother, manu and the food for these from his hair. Tāne took these to add to the korowai he created for their mother Papatūānuku. This was for the covering of the land. The manu with the crickets and locusts became the original inhabitants and songsters.

Ka ngaro reoreo tangata kikī manu.

No human voices, only the twittering of birds.

The title of this exhibition refers to the memory of distant homelands and many different horizons that Waitaha held in their lore and embedded in the landscape of Te Waka o Aoraki. We wish to honour the descendants of Rākaihautū who made the area around the gallery at Wairewa their tūrakawaewae, or home, and created art that has its origins in the ancient traditions. We hope to make people aware of the picturesque and timeless oral stories, artworks, songs and sayings that carry a philosophy but also make memorable images that both acknowledge their past and also describe important features in amazing oral maps.

The journey starts in Te Pātūnui o Āio, possibly in Taiwan, when peo- ple arrived from the mainland at a shore and met the ocean. They see a distant flat horizon, try to understand these new things and wonder if the meeting of sea and sky could safely be passed through. This most ancient legend tells how they created a craft with the lightest materials known, feathers, then tested that first waka, Huruhuruma- nu, on a cord to see what would happen. A storm, Uruao, breaks the cord but later the waka returns in a battered state and this is taken as a tohu or omen, that a passage is possible.

A real waka was created and with the special adze, Pakitua, they ‘cut through’ the pae or horizon and so discovered many new horizons with different lands, new creatures, (some terrifying), new birds, fish and new peoples.

Over centuries they venture further on Te Moananui a Kiwa, learning the signs of the ocean, of the rainbows and skies, then learn to use directions from the stars and lunar rainbows also. They also met new inhabitants whose languages and arts influenced their own until they settled for generations in Tahiti.

Being ‘Nomads of the Sea’, under the leadership of Rākaihautū they decided that like the cuckoo who regularly flies south and later returns, there must be land in that direction. More guidance and knowledge was obtained from the elders and the tohuka Takopa also passed on to them his great waka Uruao. Thus the epic voyage was begun, eventually bringing them to the prow of Te Waka o Aoraki, around Wakatū, Nelson.

From there the group sent out exploring parties to ‘map’ the land and discover sites with materials and food sources that would best enable them to create places to live peacefully. One of the parties, under Rākaihautū, took an inland route while others under Rokohouia took Uruao around the coast with the cliffs around Kaikōura being named Kā Whatakai a Rokohouia, the Storehouses of Rokohouia.

Rākaihautū is credited with creating a more liveable landscape for those that were to follow by carving out the great lakes and breathing life into the new land. He completed his work on the Banks Peninsula with two Lakes, Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere and Te Roto o Wairewa/ Lake Forsyth. Wairewa means ‘water lifted up’ and Te Roto o Wairewa was the last lake to be dug out by the legendary Rākaihautū. On com- pletion, he took his great lake digging kō, Tūwhakarōria, renamed it Tuhiraki and thrust it into Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū (Banks Peninsula) forming Tuhiraki (Mt Bossu), this act constituted the ‘lifting up’.

A mixture of descriptive place names, traditional stories associat-
ed with dangers (which describe new homes of taniwha familiar from the past) etc, were woven into memorable legends that created awesomely accurate oral maps. How, we wonder in awe, did they describe the South Island as the wrecked waka of Aoraki, listing on its side and turned to stone. Its carved prow being the Marlborough Sounds, the Southern Alps being the carved thwart that remained above water, the highest peaks being Aoraki and his brothers also petrified, Bluff Hill the sternpost, Rakiura the Anchor Stone, with the Canterbury plains being raked out later for flat land that joined up to the fishing stations of Kaikōura, Otago and Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū, Banks Peninsula.

It would take many more exhibitions to do justice to the wealth of traditions given very briefly here. So our efforts using painting, carv- ing, songs and instrumental music along with these traditions then combined as graphic imagery, are our humble acknowledgement of the value that they provide as we endeavour to

Plait the rope that binds the past to the future

Robin Slow and Brian Flintoff

The Paintings - Robin Slow

Click on an image to see full size.

He Manuhiri Tū A Rangi
(Visitors from afar)

Manaia forms are at the sides of the central figure – ira atua/ira tangata, life forces of the atua and the tangata. There are four manu that form the moko – Ngā hau e whā, the four winds, from where all tangata have travelled from. Kōtuku represents the chiefly one. Kawau, the rangatira who guards, protects and is at the same time a ‘diver’, a thinker. Waitaha were considered to be the finest of pūtaratara players. Pīpīwharauroa guides the travellers to Te Korowai o Papatūānuku.

On First Arriving

The three iwi on Uruao, Ngā uri hapū o Tai-te-whenua, ko Waitaha, Kāhui Tipua rāua ko Kāhui-roko

From the Hair of Rehua - Tahi

Kua tata ngā pō o ngā pōtiki a Rehua
The nights of the children of Rehua have arrived. The huia (extinct) - The kōkako (endangered) - Tūī (thriving)

From the Hair of Rehua - Rua

Kua tata ngā pō o ngā pōtiki a Rehua
The nights of the children of Rehua have arrived. The huia (extinct) - The kōkako (endangered) - Tūī (thriving)

Through The Eyes Of The Tūī.

The light of Te Ao Mārama, (of this world) shines down. The whetū (stars) give direction. They use the rainbow to affirm their position. With his kō Tūwhakarōria, Rākaihautū found the location and knowledge relating to the water and its sources.

Pēnei I Tu Pīpīwharauroa
(Offspring of the shining cuckoo)

The cuckoo were trail blazers. Observed travelling from the Pacific Islands to Aotearoa, they were following their traditional migratory patterns. Another method of following a direction was to follow the migratory pathways of the whales. Detail: Kaitiaki Tohorā, whale guardians, Ara Tohorā, pathways, trails of the whales.

Ngā Ara Waka

Into this land came the great travellers navigating their way from the stars to Te Pātūnui o Aiō on to Hawaiki then to Aotearoa. The waka, often referred to as a manunui because of their form and speed across the waters, followed the trails not only of the night sky but also the whales, manu, and honu. Their pathway was also directed by the rainbows that danced in front. Detail: Kōwhaiwhai of flying manu, Kōwhaiwhai of honu (turtle), reference this to the Anatoki waka located in Mōhua.

Kōwhaiwhai Manu

Kōwhaiwhai Tohorā

Rākaihautū Arrives At Tāhunanui.

Ka Pūna Karikari a Rākaihautū. The springs dug out by Rākaihautū.

The great Waitaha tipuna, traveller, explorer and oral map maker was Rākaihautū. Rākaihautū and his son Rokohouia were the kaitiaki of the waka Uruao. Some say that the waka was the original Wakahuruhu-manu renamed and passed on, others that it was the ‘pattern’ for the Uruao, whatever the understanding be, the waka flew over the waterways to reach Aotearoa from its original place Te Pātūnui o Aiō. He arrived at the top of Aotearoa and finding the land occupied travelled on to the South Island where there appeared to be no human occupants. They landed at Whakatū and then decided to separate into two parties. One group with Rākaihautū travelled down the centre of the island ‘creating’ (naming) the many lakes with his kō, Tūwhakarōria, along the way. The other group under the direction of Rokohouia sailed the Uruao through Raukawa Moana and down the east coast of the South Island.

Te Hongi (Pāpara/Tamāroa)
(The Hongi of Father and son)

Tīkapa ki te hau, kōtuku ki te rangi.

The cry of the wind signals the approach of the kōtuku. Ira Atua and Ira Tangata, left and right of the figures represent the life forces in a manaia form. Tūī, the imparter of knowledge, sits on the kō.

Where The Rainbows Pointed They Would Follow

The honu (turtle) had migratory patterns that were followed. This references the waka (over 500 years old) that was found in Mōhua and had on its tau ihu a carved honu. Detail: Te Kō Tu Whakarōia

Ka Wera Hoki I Te Ahi, E Mana Ana Anō
While the fire burns, the mana is effective

There are several ‘horizon’ lines within this work, depending on your own perspective or viewpoint. There is the ‘space between” or Te Ao Mārama, of this world running through the centre. Te Pātūnui o Aiō is referenced in the works, by the often red line going from one side to the other. We each have our own boundaries, our own Te Pātūnui o Aiō, a place unseen that we have come from and a place we must break through and cross.

Ka Pakihi-Whakatekateka-A-Waitaha.

The korowai of Papatūānuku.

The place where the Waitaha people dressed themselves when they saw the land was flat. The painted forms from the early Waitaha era. These are painted or etched into the back- ground. The korowai of Papatūānuku. The hue references the Waitaha people as the water carriers.


The name Waikoropūpū has been translated as ‘bubbling waters’.

Waikoropūpū are the Springs in Mōhua/Golden Bay. It is told there that the waka was saved from sinking by the uplift of the taniwha Huriawa and whales that acted as support to her. Huriawa was said to have been called forth by Rākaihautū to act as kaitiaki or guardian of the waterways for the top of the South Island. The waka following the rain- bows and the manu becomes Māhutonga, the Southern Cross.

E hoa! He Hākuwai Te Manu E Karanga Tonu Ana I Tōna Ingoa.
(Friend! The hākuwai is the bird that is always calling out its own name)

With a whirl of wings and an eerie cry the hākuwai flies through the realms to Rehua. Some give him different names and tasks but he is an important manu based on the number of stories. Look at some of the old drawings and you will see him depicted there.

He Korokoro Tūī
(The throat of the tūī)

Pūmotomoto is the name of the doorway between the 11th and 12th heavens.
It is the doorway to esoteric knowledge. Tūī was given the task to guard this doorway. The pūmotomoto is also the name of the taonga puoro that was used for the passing on of whakapapa, waiata and karakia through the playing into the fontanel of an infant. Tūī were also taught karakia, waiata and whakapapa by tohunga by caging them, trimming their tongues and enlarging their throats.

Ngā Aitanga Kapakapa A Tāne
(The wing flapping children of Tāne)

A manu unifies earth and sky, bringing them together in harmony. Their singing at dawn is a sign of light over darkness. Birds provide a model, a way of visualis- ing the invisible.

The Carvings - Brian Flintoff

Click on an image to see full size.

Te Waka Ariā
(Likeness of a waka Whalebone)

This small carving I imagined as the dainty feather which may have inspired the creation of Te Waka Huruhurumanu which was made to see if people would be harmed when they sailed to where the sea met the sky. Here I imagined that a sturdier model was created and that feather was put inside it as a ‘sail’. It was caught in an uruao, a squall, but when it finally arrived back it was divined from its appearance that it would be possible to journey beyond the horizon so the large waka was made. Its pounamu wave was made by my friend Clem Mellish.


A very special waka, Uruao had been chosen as the waka of Tamarēreti to take his people to become the sky people, immortalised as stars and creating a night cloak for Rangi after his separation from Papa. As he had arranged trees as an amazing cloak for Papa, Tāne set about arranging the star people too but when he paused to check the design he was so delighted that he broke into a haka and accidentally scattered the ones he still held and even spilled the others waiting in Uruao.

Te Taura
(The Anchor Rope)

These two equally bright and easily spotted stars in the Milky Way represent the anchor rope of Uruao. They are also known as the Pointers which applies to this story, as they point one way to Uruao and the other way to Mahu Toka, the anchor stone.

Mahu Toka
(The Southern Cross)

These signal stars for southern hemisphere sailors thankfully hold the other stars in place and are perhaps the most recognised star group in this part of the world. They do not go out of sight below the horizon and this circular shape seemed to me to be a fitting way to depict the constancy of these star people.

Pūtōrino ‘Waiata Whetū’
(Star Songs)

This pūtōrino represents the rope that connects the waka Uruao to the Anchor Stone, Mahutoka, the Southern Cross and so creates a massive constellation. They are easily rec- ognised as two equally bright stars called Mahu Toka or The Pointers which point one way to Uruao and the other to Mahutonga. The two manaia style faces at the ends depict those two stars and the central face represents the songs used as oral maps by voyagers.

Kōauau ‘Kā Whetū Kaiarahi’

This kōauau has the face of the instrument on the played end and the face of the music created when the player’s voice and the flute’s voice join to make music. The three manaia style faces represent the three stars given by Takopa as signs to follow on the proposed trip beyond the next horizon; Wero i te Ninihi, Wero i te Kokoto, and Wero i te Aumārie.

Kōauau ‘Matariki Rāua Ko Rehua’

This depicts the two important Stars, Matariki and Rehua who dwell at opposite ends of Te Ika Roa, the Milky Way. Their faces are carved around either end and the wenewene or finger holes which lie in Te Ika Roa, the Milky Way, are known as Tautoru or Orion’s Belt. They point from there to Matariki and are used as a guide for finger hole spacing. I chose this surface pattern as it best reflects the look of the myriad of stars, Te Ika Roa.

Pōrutu ‘Matiti’

This instrument has a carved face to represent the tohuka Matiti, the father of Waiariki o Aio who was the expert that gave Rākaihautū the knowledge of the guiding stars needed to take the group to their new home. He also gifted the waka Uruao for them to travel in. Matiti is also the name of the summer star which marked the time to set out on the voyage. The music is shown on the flute’s body going out and creating pleasing shapes in the silence.

Kōauau ‘Waiata Aroha’
(Songs of the stars)

A special aspect of this kōauau is that it has noticeably different pitches when played from either end, this makes it ideal to represent the founding parents of Waitaha, Waiariki o Aio and Rākaihautū whose faces are represented around the ends of the pōrutu. The finger holes represent the guiding stars Wero i te ninihi, Wero i te kokoto, Wero i te aumārie and the surface decoration depicts music going out on the four winds.

Pūtōrino ‘Koeaeā’
(The Long Tailed Cuckoo)

The shape of this recognises the similarity of the cocoon of Raukatauri and a waka. The koru at the end is inspired by an ancient depiction of a waka on Rapanui which suggest- ed to me a likeness of Te Waka Huruhurumanu. The story told is of the waka Uruao, sometimes also referred to as that feather canoe, which is following the migration of the koekoeā, the cuckoo which acts as the kaiārahi leading this waka to lands beyond.

Pōrutu ‘He Whānau Tohorā’
(A whale family)

These flutes can create several overtones and this one celebrates the marvellous song of Humpback whales, a family of which are featured. The whales feature here as one of the kaiarahia or pathfinders for the voyagers on their travels to Aotearoa. The face of the pōrutu is carved on the blown end and to play it one must hongi, or share breath with it. The dual faces at the other end represent the two breaths creating music. The raised faces near each end depict the treasured potential of pōrutu to jump sound from low to higher registers.

Nguru ‘Tohorā’

The family of whales and dolphins, the senior children of Takaroa, would have been frequent companions of the seafarers and it has been noted that their songs get amplified by the hulls of waka. The songs of taonga puoro have been observed to attract dolphins and whales and Waitaha were noted to be keen musicians so I have used this link to create this nguru.

Pōrotu ‘Taki Waitaha’
(Song of Waitaha)

This pōrutu tells of the trek of Rākaihautū from Wakatū where the taniwha Kaiwhakarua- ki, seen on one side lives, to Wairewa where he erects his ko Tūwhakarōria with which he has ‘dug’ the islands great lakes. It was then renamed Tuhiraki and that nearby mountain still has that as its name. The face on the smaller, blown end is that of the flute and on the other end is the face of the music.

Pūmoana ‘Kā Manu Nui’
(The Great Birds)

The mouthpiece on this Tutufa Bobo shell is carved with faces representing Rākaihautū and his son Rokohouia as they meet with joyful celebration at the end of their great journeys of explora- tions inland and coastal. I have carved a feather in the hair of each as if they may have boasted of the huge birds they encountered, with Rokohouia having found a nesting site of the great Toroa but Rākaihautū going one better having encountered the fearsome Hākuwai who feasts on giant moa.

Pūkaea ‘Karaka Moa Kakīnui’
(Song of the Stout Necked Moa)

This Moa had a long straight trachea like that of the Wapiti so I imagined that its call was similar and carved it to represent that moa. Carved in the middle is a Hākuwai, the Giant Eagle that would have been seen with great trepidation on the trek south. Many new birds would be part of this trek and those that were known or similar to ones known were given the names they knew and many others were named with words that sounded like their calls or characteristics.

Tōpu Kōkako
(Kōkako Pair)

The song of the kōkako is so special that mythology explains how it was obtained from the Goddess of music when Kōkako did a favour for the demi-god Māui and was granted some wishes. They are faithful birds who are so much of a pair that the mate will take over a song while the other grabs another bite to eat.

Kā Kea

This pair of Kea are carved in the style of a bird on an ancient whale tooth carving from Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū, Banks Pen- insula. The notching around the wings adds an impression of movement and the styling of the feet is formed by two kaokao symbols that indicate strength. Like the kākā their red feathers are prized as elements of adornment.(left)

Kā Kākā Koa
(Joyful Kākā)

The joyful exuberance of kākā is the theme of this stylisation of them tumbling together in mid-air. These birds were kept as pets, used as decoy birds and also eaten. Their loud cry which gives them their common name is distinctive and copy- ing it can bring these inquisitive birds down from their flight. However they also have a large range of entrancing ‘liquid’ notes in their ‘song’ repertoire and were once kept as pets. (left below)

Pūrerehua ‘Hamumu Ira Garara’

The story told on this instrument is in its name which means the sound that brings lizards to life, for in the south it was used to lure them out of hiding for capture. On the other side a moth is depicted so the sound created as it twirls must mimic that of a fluttering moth, a favourite food of lizards.

Hue Karakia

Robin Slow and Brian Flintoff.

The Video

Notes on The Music and Video

The purpose of the music which accompanies the video is to enhance and support the kaupapa of the exhibition.

We have imagined a soundscape which responds to and reflects the wonderful imagery by Robin and Brian.

The soundscape features vocals by Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir and Solomon Rahui with taonga puoro played by them and Bob Bickerton.

Some of the lyrics were composed specifically for the project, others have been chosen because their kupu talk so closely to the stories held within the imagery.

The soundscape is sequential, starting with the tāngata wondering about the possibilities of sailing beyond the horizon.

The middle section explores the journey undertaken by travellers from afar using tohu (signs) such as whale pathways and migratory birds to navigate.

Often instruments have been chosen because of their connection with the kupu or imagery being displayed at the time of the music. An example being the use of toroa (albatross) ororuarangi and kōauau to accompany the toroa waiata.

During the tohorā (whale) sequence, various instruments are used to play off actual recorded whales and these include a nguru made by Brian from the tooth of a sperm whale as well as his pōrutu ‘He Whānau Tohorā’. Tumutumu (percussion) is played on the jaw bone of a pilot whale.

Transitioning from the tohorā sequence is the mournful sound of the Pūpakapaka, which leads us into the Kāi Tahu waiata ‘Terea te waka’, composed by Charisma Rangipunga and Paulette Tamati-Elliffe. The strike of the hoe on the hull of the waka is created by the tohorā tumu- tumu and the subtle sweep of the hoe in the moana by hue puruwai.

Upon arrival in Aotearoa the travellers hear birdsong including the pīpīwharauroa, one of the tohu followed whilst navigating.

Rākaihautū, represented by the great Pūkaea ‘Karaka Moa Kakīnui’ which is featured in this exhibition, commences his journey to carve out the lakes down Te Waipounamu.

A joyful reunion takes place after this journey between Rākaihautū and his son Rokohouia, imagined by their respective calls on pūtatara and pūkaea.

Finally, we have a section which explores the manu paintings and carvings from the exhibition and features two waiata composed by Holly Tikao-Weir.

The final sound is given to the pīpīwharauroa, which has accompanied the travellers from afar and now sings to them in their new home.

Various ambient sounds including water, birdsong and wind sounds were recorded by Bob Bickerton.


Paintings by Robin Slow, Carvings by Brian Flintoff.

Thanks to the composers of the waiata: Terea te Waka Kaitito, composed by Charisma Rangipunga & Paulette Tamati-Elliffe, Āio, Arahina Mai and Kā Puna Karikari composed by Ariana Tikao, Pīpīwharauroa and Kōkako composed by Holly Tikao-Weir.

Vocals by Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir and Solomon Rahui, Taonga Puoro played by Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir, Solomon Rahui and Bob Bickerton.

Web design, video and audio production by Bob Bickerton.

All material ©2020 - Robin Slow, Brian Flintoff, Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir, Solomon Rahui and Bob Bickerton.