« I am the house
Feeling the cold… my korowai taken from me
and I shudder in the grip of this sharp wind
Were you not stoking the fires
Keeping me warm
I was holding fort
You holding forth
Is the past too harder a task…I ask
And I wait as I do… …as I have… …as I will
As you come in your hundreds, thousands
Year after year we have shared the air
Embraced by the uri of Nga Hau e wha
I wait for the karanga to take you to the sky […] »
So who invited tu ?, Rosanna Raymonds
*Switch language to french for french version of the article*
The subject of this poem, both in the linguistic and philosophical sense, is Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito. She is a māori wharenui, literally a 'big house', which is found on every marae, the communal space that brings together all the members of a given group within māori culture. Made of painted and carved wood, it is usually quadrangular with a double-pitched roof and has a door and a window on its front, which is set back from the roof to create a porch. It is decorated with carved and painted elements on its interior walls, lintels and door and window frames, as well as on the roof edge (mahi), its supports and on the gable. The painted and carved figures refer to ancestors of the group or to more general mythological stories. These houses are central to māori cultural activities and have great importance in the expression of whakapapa, the māori genealogy that goes back to the first boats that carried the first inhabitants of Aotearoa/New Zealand. They are living beings with spiritual forces (mana) and have their own names. In English, they are referred to by the pronouns 'she' or 'he' according to the gender of the ancestor they are named after, rather than 'it'.1
Hinemihi has the specificity to be located on the Clandon Park Estate, Surrey. She is the only complete wharenui preserved in the UK and one of only four houses preserved in its entirety outside Aotearoa/New Zealand.2 Her history begins with her construction in 1880 in Te Wairoa. The town was a popular stopover for tourists crossing the lake to see the Pink and White Terraces next to Lake Rotomahana in the north of the North Island. This tourist attraction greatly benefited the local māori group (Tuhourangi), who ran the boat trip business and other tourist facilities, giving them a certain amount of financial comfort. Hinemihi was commissioned and paid for by Chief Aporo Te Wharekaniwha, the head of the ngati Hinemihihapu (subgroup of Tuhourangi).3 The Tonunga whakairo (expert carvers) hired were Wero Taroi (1880s) and his pupil Tene Waitere (1853-1931) from ngati Tarawhai.4 This whare was envisaged as a place of cultural affirmation and identity as an ancestral memorial displaying the group's genealogy. She served as a place for meetings and ceremonies, but it was also a space that could be visited by tourists(for a fee). To show everyone the wealth of the hapu, Chief Aporo had put gold sovereigns in place of the traditional paua (pearly shells)5 in the eye sockets of some of the sculptures. This was a deviation from tradition, as was the use of the whare for tourism purposes6 and her female name, which referred to a a prestigious female ancestor from the 16th century.7
Unfortunately, this prosperity was short-lived. On 10 June 1886, a violent eruption shook Mount Tarawera, accompanied by an earthquake that destroyed the Pink and White Terraces. The whole area around, including the town of Te Wairoa was covered with a mixture of mud, ash and lava and the event costed 153 humans lives. It is estimated that about 45 people found refuge in Hinemihi. This disaster forced the members of Ngati Hinemihi to move to territories donated by other groups, and led them into economic, social and spiritual decline.8 Hinemihi was then left 'abandoned' in an altered state, a choice that was made because of the ban on Te Wairoa. The town was declared an urupa (burial ground) and wahi tapu (sacred) because of the buried bodies of the deceased and the access to it was therefore more or less forbidden.9
After this period, during which some of the sculptures were removed, Hinemihi was finally purchased for £50 in 1892 by William Hillier, the fourth Earl of Onslow, who wished to take home a 'memento' of his governorship of Aotearoa/New Zealand between 1888 and 1892.10 She then became an exotic and picturesque folly within the garden of the family home in Surrey, serving as a summer residence and pleasure ground during the first half of the twentieth century.11 Hinemihi is now separated from her original socio-cultural context; isolated on the other side of the globe, she is no longer kept 'warm' in the māori sense. She is no longer the setting for māori ceremonies or cultural practices (speeches, singing, etc.); her link to ancestral entities, her spiritual power and her own mana are all weakened. For her new visitors, she is only an exotic memory of a distant region and is associated with the idea of the British colonial empire.
After the Second World War, the Onslow family had to dispose of the property for economic reasons and it was sold and transferred to the National Trust in 1956 by the new owner.12 The National Trust (NT) is a heritage charity founded in 1895. It has had the right to declare sites inalienable by an Act of Parliament since 1907.13 This right has given it legitimacy in its mission to preserve heritage in the UK and it manages several hundred diverse heritage sites (castles, museums, villages, factories, nature reserves, coastlines, etc.).14 At the time of the NT's acquisition, Hinemihi was in a poor state of repair and several restoration campaigns followed. The methodology was the same as for the rest of the built heritage for which the association was responsible; it contracted with companies specialised in the field for her restoration. During the first campaign (around 1960), the NT contacted New Zealand to obtain local materials and advice, but mistakes and shortcomings in its renovation meant that it remained incomplete by māori standards15 (among other things, it still lacked an enclosed façade). For the second campaign (around 1979-1980), the NT contacted a number of experts and academics in advance and had essential elements added that were missing at the time (facade, door, window, the interior roof support) in addition to cleaning and refreshing the paintwork. However, the manager of the company hired for the restoration work confused the eruption debris in a photo (the one shown above) with a European-style thatched roof.16
Although the people in charge of the restoration work for the National Trust are satisfied with the result of this latest campaign, from the point of view of Aotearoa/New Zealand there is still a piece missing from this puzzle: "Hinemihi stands alone, [...]. Without people, there is no spirit. Without land, there is no soul'. 17 Indeed, while there has been a notable effort to contact Hinemihi's homeland, the descendants of her original owners, the Ngati Hinemihi group, are still excluded from the conservation process. Hinemihi may look more in keeping with its original appearance, but it remains an exotic folly in an English garden, a reminder of English colonial rule, which is more related to the estate's previous owners than to its original culture for park visitors. To put it another way, her physical materiality is restored but not her cultural significance, which is expressed by the cultural and social context of the whare for the māori people.
The process of re-appropriation will come from Aotearoa/New Zealand: in 1986, some members of Ngati Hinemihi made a pilgrimage to Hinemihi, with her repatriation in mind,18 to end her loneliness and separation from her associated group. The link to Hinemihi is very strong because most of the members of this community are descendants of those who survived the eruption by sheltering inside her. The NT listened to their request but did not act on it, but it did create an ongoing relationship with the group.19 At the time of Hinemihi's centenary in Clandon Park in 1992, a new Ngati Hinemihi delegation visited and the idea of making the missing sculptures was considered and later approved by the community, with the sculptors agreeing to make them free of charge in their spare time. The sculptures were officially handed over to the NT in 1995 and a ceremony was held at Hinemihi (after a little restoration work by the delegation). Ngati Hinemihi requested that the house and the land around it be handed over to them for the ceremony, invoking their rights as tangata whenua (people of the land, i.e. the original inhabitants of a place). This moment was one of the major markers of Ngati Hinemihi's cultural reappropriation of Hinemihi, reaffirming their rights to her and their responsibility for her conservation. The community representatives also announced their agreement to leave her to her adopted country for the time being, as an ambassador and link to Aotearoa in general and Ngati Hinemihi in particular. It was also the official opening of a collaboration with the UK-based māori community (mainly represented by Ngati Ranana, the London māori Club), who were allowed to gather at Hinemihi for cultural activities and at the same time be associated with the responsibility for her conservation.20
Since then, every year the local māori community gathers in Clandon Park for the Kohanga Reo Hangi festival in June. Tikanga (protocol) is observed and māori kaupapa (māori cultural activities) take place: speeches (korero) are given, songs (waiata) and dances (haka, kapahaka) are performed, all of which are centred around the making of a traditional hangi (meal cooked in an underground steam oven). Over time, other recurring annual events were added to the calendar.21 Over time, other recurring annual events were added to the calendar. All these activities bring Hinemihi back to life and allow her to remain 'warm', i.e. spiritually and culturally active, despite the distance from her homeland and culture of origin, as Rosanna Raymond's poem explains. However, as these very occasional contacts do not allow for the material conservation of Hinemihi throughout the year, and as this new socio-cultural context remains insufficient to create a real community around the wharenui for several reasons, a new conservation project has been in place since the early 2000s, which will be the subject of the second part of this article.
Cover picture : Hinemihi, Clandon park, August 2012 © Graham Dash https://www.flickr.com/photos/23545965@N02/7771623332/in/photostream/
1 SULLY, D., 2007. « Introduction ». In Decolonising Conservation, Caring for maori houses outside New-Zeland. Walnut Creek (CA), Left Coast Press, p. 25.
2 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 127.
3 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 129.
4 SHUSTER, J., 2007. « Hinemihi and ngati (tribe) Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 178.
5See Elsa Spigolon's article for more information on paua : https://casoar.org/2018/08/15/la-peche-a-la-nacre-dans-la-culture-maori/
6 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 130.
7 SHUSTER, J., 2007. « Hinemihi and ngati (tribe) Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 178.
8 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 133.
9 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 133.
10 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 127.
11 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 139.
12 DeLONG LAWLOR, J., LITHGOW, K., 2007. « The National Trust and Hinemihi at Clandon Park ». In Ibid, p. 152.
13 DeLONG LAWLOR, J., LITHGOW, K., 2007. « The National Trust and Hinemihi at Clandon Park ». In Ibid, p. 150.
14 DeLONG LAWLOR, J., LITHGOW, K., 2007. « The National Trust and Hinemihi at Clandon Park ». In Ibid, p. 149.
15 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 142.
16 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 144.
17 Version originale : Hinemihi stands alone,[…]. Without people, there is no spirit. Without land, there is no soul » (New Zealand Woman’s Weekly 3 september 1980, p.41) – Traduction Clémentine Débrosse.
SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 144.
18 According to Ngati Hinemihi, the whole group had not agreed to the purchase. Moreover, the seller (Mike Aporo, a descendant of Chief Aporo) thought he was selling it to the government to be placed in a museum.
SHUSTER, J., 2007. « Hinemihi and ngati (tribe) Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 181.
19 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 144.
20 SULLY, D., GALLOP, A., 2007. « Introducing Hinemihi ». In Ibid, p. 147.
21 SULLY, D., RAYMOND, R., HOETE, A., 2014. « Locating Hinemihi’s people ». Journal of Material Culture, vol. 19, n°2, p. 213.
- DELONG LAWLOR, J., LITHGOW, K., 2007. « The National Trust and Hinemihi at Clandon Park ». In SULLY, D., (ed.), Decoloninsing Conservation : Caring for maori houses outside New-Zeland. Walnut Creek (CA), Left Coast Press, pp. 149-159.
- RAYMONDS, R., « So who invited tu ? ». In SULLY, D., (ed.), Decoloninsing Conservation : Caring for maori houses outside New-Zeland. Walnut Creek (CA), Left Coast Press, p. 147.
- SHUSTER, J., 2007. « Hinemihi and ngati (tribe) Hinemihi ». In SULLY, D., (ed.), Decoloninsing Conservation : Caring for maori houses outside New-Zeland. Walnut Creek (CA), Left Coast Press, pp. 175-190.
- SULLY, D., GALLOP, A, « Introducing Hinemihi ». In SULLY, D., (ed.), Decoloninsing Conservation : Caring for maori houses outside New-Zeland. Walnut Creek (CA), Left Coast Press, pp. 127-148.
- SULLY, D., RAYMOND, R., HOETE, A., 2014. « Locating Hinemihi’s people ». Journal of Material Culture, vol. 19, n°2, pp. 209-229.