J W Giles (Artist), George French Angas

Te Henheu's [sic] old pah of Waitahanui, at Taupo Lake

Te Henheu's [sic] old pah of Waitahanui, at Taupo Lake by J W Giles, George French Angas

Artwork Detail

Angas's description:



ON the shores of Taupo Lake, in the very heart of the interior of the Northern Island of New Zealand stands the once celebrated Pah of Waitahanui, formerly the residence of the great Chief Te Heuheu and his people, who belong to the Nga-ti-tuaretoa tribe. Since the introduction of Christianity amongst the inhabitants, this extensive Pah, once the place of so much crime, and the scene of numerous cannibal feasts, has been deserted by its former occupants, who have settled on the beautiful slopes at the foot of Te Rapa, several miles further along the shores of Lake Taupo, and close to the boiling ponds, over which the natives cook their food. Waitahanui is situated on a neck of low swampy land, jutting into the lake, about six miles from Te Heuheu's present settlement: a broad and deep river, fed by the snows from the neighbouring volcano of Tongariro, mingled with the boiling streams that rise in the vicinity, empties itself into the lake at the extremity of the Pah.

When viewed from the water, its front, a quarter of a mile in length, presents an imposing appearance, with a line of fortifications of wooden posts and stakes, fastened together by strong flax cords; on the top of many of the posts, are carved images of men, in attitudes of defiance, with enormous protruding tongues, of a size larger than life, which are usually coloured red.* The whole Pah is now in ruins; it is all "tapu" or sacred, and contains several fine examples of primitive and ornamental buildings, which are rapidly hastening to decay. During my visit I was fortunate enough to make drawings of most of these, which I obtained by stealth, Te Heuheu having forbidden me to represent any object that was tapu. Ruined carved houses, and many wahi tapu, or burial places, are scattered about within the enclosures, and at the back, a deep moat or trench, filled with water, has been dug the whole length of the Pah. Water is also conveyed within the fortifications by means of a canal, to supply the besieged during an attack.

Here I wandered alone over the scenes of many savage deeds - ovens, where human flesh had been cooked in heaps, still remained, with the stones scattered round, and blackened by fire - here and there, a whitened human scull lay on the ground, and the plover and the tern screamed mournfully through this desolate waste of ruins. The beach fronting the Pah, is composed entirely of pumice, and the view across the lake, towards the mountain of Tauhara embraces the most enchanting scenery it is possible to imagine.

* The ancient heathens were accustomed to paint their idols of a red colour, as appears from the following extract from the Wisdom of Solomon: - "The carpenter carved it diligently, when he had nothing else to do, and formed it by the skill of his understanding, and fashioned it to the shape of a man, or made it like some vile beast, laying it over with vermillion, and with paint, colouring it red, and covering every spot therein." - Vide note to Herodotus by Beloe."

Te Henheu's [sic] old pah of Waitahanui, at Taupo Lake
J W Giles, George French Angas
Production date
handcoloured lithograph
232 x 305 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1964
Accession no
Other ID
1964/45 Old Accession Number, 1964/15/7/B
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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