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Iconic artwork vandalism a mark of disrespect – Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge

Rangitāne o Manawatū as tangata whenua and the Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge governance group is extremely disappointed with the disrespectful actions of individuals who have vandalised one of the most iconic landmarks in the Manawatū.

Whatonga, a steel statue standing over 6 metres tall, has held pride of place at the top of the popular Tawa Loop Track for over a decade. On the night of 30 December someone carted steel cutting equipment to the top of the track and removed the statue’s phallus.

Rangitāne o Manawatū representative on the governance group, Danielle Harris, says Whatonga is a significant ancestor of Rangitāne and his statue not only acknowledges his place in their whakapapa and history but he is also a way to educate visitors to Te Āpiti about who they are as an iwi nation.

“Whatonga is one of our primary ancestors and the patterns on his statue tell his great story as a chief and explorer. To say we are disgusted to have a part of that story so disrespectfully removed is an understatement.

“It clearly shows the ignorance and lack of understanding by some individuals of art and its place in our world. We encourage those responsible to front up to the act.

“Rangitāne have a whakatauki (proverb) that talks about there being as many Rangitāne people on the land as there are stars in the sky, so this vandalism to Whatonga’s reproductive organs is an insult to a belief system we hold precious.”

Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-ā-Rua representative on the governance group, Mavis Mullins, adds the vandalism to history and art is unacceptable.

“Globally art is explicit, from Michelangelo’s statue of David to Titan’s painting of Venus, with certain features being a common denominator,” she says.

“Anyone who feels strongly about the art display in Te Āpiti is invited to have a progressive and educated discussion with the governance group and welcome to get in touch via info@teapiti.co.nz.”

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge governance group chair and Horizons Regional Council councillor Fiona Gordon says the group will work with iwi to have Whatonga repaired.

“Whatonga is one of the most visually represented icons of the wider Manawatū and Rangitāne – he is photographed by local, national and international visitors, is on the front page of our local paper, greets people at the airport and has featured in many other places. It’s really hard to believe that someone would go to so much effort to disfigure him and we share the disappointment of our iwi partners.

“We were made aware of the damage the day following the vandalism and do not know who is responsible. If anyone has any information about who is, we recommend they report it to the police.

“Efforts will be made to restore him to his proper state as soon as possible and we hope those responsible know they will not succeed in diminishing his mana through their premeditated, disrespectful actions.”

Department of Conservation operations manager for Palmerston North Moana Smith-Dunlop says the act of desecration is a loss for all who visit the Tawa Loop Track.

“Our thoughts are with the artist who worked so hard to perfect this incredible sculpture, iwi and the Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge governance group who invested a lot of time, heart and resource into its meaningful creation.”

 

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