‘Singing waiata to the spheres’: Reuben Paterson’s Dazzling Crystal Waka Sculpture

by Sarah Farrar (Auckland Art Gallery)

One hundred and thirty-five years ago, the ghostly apparition of a waka taua, war canoe, was sighted across Lake Tarawera. This waka wairua, spirit waka, was observed by a local kaiārahi Te Paea Hinerangi, known as Guide Sophia, as she led a whaleboat of tourists on an excursion to visit the world-famous Pink and White Terraces. While eyewitness accounts vary, Māori and Pākehā onboard the boat tell of a mysterious waka appearing in the distance before vanishing again. Local high priest Tūhoto Ariki of Tūhourangi reportedly interpreted the waka wairua’s manifestation as ominous. [1] His concern was well-founded: 11 days later, on 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera violently erupted, completely destroying the Terraces and three nearby villages.


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August 28, 2021