Telling the Stories of our Ancestors: Titokowaru Part 2

Maui Studios Palisades

Kia ora all

We’ve recently landed a mean project through Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori to create iwi graphic novels for our Taranaki iwi, Ngāruahine.

It’s an awesome project that gives us the chance to clue up on some of the local history from here in South Taranaki, Normanby. -

I found this epic vid on the Māori lands wars just now, which is an ideal primer

This is a second part to the korero - the original post is found here

Aw and just quickly I received a helpful message from the cuz 'Filmfulla' about an hour ago.

Maui Studios Blog Post Reply Image

So now I'm hunting down these books to add to my collection and these will help give me some deeper insight.

Disclaimer: The details written here are based on what I've learned from Tawhiti Museum, my own independent research and how I understood them. If they conflict with other historic accounts then kei te pai, please comment about it below, and we can compare notes. I'm no research genius but I do see how the detail makes something go from average to amazing. Details here will be refined and developed over time, and it's important to note this will be conversational and is not for a Phd or anything. You're essentially looking into my own personal notebook/ sketch book on this journey.

This is all fits into the Māui design and development process

We're still moving through the Research Project of Titokowaru - Visual Library

And now we're up to

This spot is a place called Turuturu Mokai Pa - In the Normanby/Hawera Region

This spot is a place called Turuturu Mokai Pa - In the Normanby/Hawera Region

Turuturu Mokai
This massive Pa, still well preserved was built 400 years ago by Ngati Tupaea - a hapu of Ngati Ruanui (Chur ancestors). Built in a loop of the Tawhiti stream, the main pa was ringed by five adjacent smaller pa - only one of which exists today. One of those was connected to the main pa by a tunnel under the Tawhiti stream - Tawhiti Museum

Important Detail : Defensive Palisades -

These defense structures were so hearty and were crucial to Māori strategy and survival. A pa would often protect the heartier ancestor villages. The tuwatawata were predominantly crafted from rakau found in nearby ngahere, and bound by locally grown harakeke, or reserves of it from previous harvests. ( looking for a harakeke gathering karakia for here.) They were quick to build and repair, were filled with intricate trenches and tunnels for movement and escape and could shelter all of the whānau. They'd often be set up in strategic locations, and if the strat changed they could easily adapt. Our Ancestors were genius'.

Aotearoa is filled with historic accounts of Colonial forces struggling to overcome Māori Palisades. Battle of Gate Pa and Te Ngutu o te Manu are two from motu I've lived in.

The pa were the perfect defense structures for Colonial Cannons and Howitzers for a time ( imagine trying to transport these over rugged Aotearoa terrain, up and down our hills, through our rivers, and forests) and the pa were a mission for foot soldiers to break into without taking heavy damage. If the pa was overrun our Ancestors could just leave and build a new one.

One of the clay made brothers scoping someone to shoot. Here he'll be full cocking his musket, ready for fire chur.

One of the clay made brothers scoping someone to shoot. Here he'll be full cocking his musket, ready for fire chur.

Our ancestors would use harakeke for rope and string and was likely the material they used to bind the wooden stakes, as seen in the above picture. The stakes were mounted into a cross bar that had notches carved into it. The rope was crisscrossed and woven around these stakes to bind them to the cross bar to ensure they were sturdy. These stakes were placed in between larger support posts. Each were fixed into the earth so the pa can be fully hearty.

Some of the elders having a korero in a subterranean whare. 

Some of the elders having a korero in a subterranean whare. 

There were many intricate facets to these pa. The above image, depicts a safe cool location for the leaders to korero. Many were adorned with whakairo carved wooden panels to tell the stories, and to add to the mana of the whare. 

This detailed pa can have many levels to it. The pa above is a mean example of these levels. Each is fortified with tall palisades, with a trench beneath. The palisades could also support viewing platforms for Maori scouts. Large posts with notches chipped out of them were used as ladders, and forms of access to different parts of the structure. The walls rise higher and higher up this particular pa and prove for a formidable form of defense.

Maui Studios Pa Farms

As well as being a military base, these pa also served as shelter for the innocent. Larger pa were more then capable of housing all of the whanau. Notice the small tunnels and wells dug into the floors and walls. They're perfect for storing kai reserves, and sheltering the elderly from danger. Food was often cultivated on the outskirts of the pa, especially in this case because of a stream nearby. Overall it was a pretty legit settlement.


These low-key tunnels could connect up to different parts of the pa. Warriors could re-position themselves within the pa, to different locations to gain the upper hand on anyone attempting  to lay siege.  

This guy is crawling in for a quick kai on some kumara

This guy is crawling in for a quick kai on some kumara

Elders chillen in one of the wells

Elders chillen in one of the wells

Wherever possible a pa would take advantage of natural defences - steep hills and cliffs, rivers or coastal perimeter etc. However there was almost always a need to improve defences with strong wooden fences (tuwatawata) and deep trenches. - Tawhiti Museum

There are so many cool details in these pa. Check that one out with the pouwhenua carved into it, next to that platform. The brothers are standing proudly because I bet they feel safe as up there. and theres a cool one of like a narrow passage way that leads through like a maze with tuwatawata on each side, so legit.

These types of structures would show up all throughout this period, and many battles were fought in and around structures just like this.

We see more of these in our stories to come, which should look pretty dope all illustrated up.

Anyways thats today's research, I'm gonna hit a training session with the Uncle and cousin, they reckon it's leg day.

but the next post will likely be more about what Maori looked like

If you've got some good insight or anything, I'll be keen to read about it, just comment with it below

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