The Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay, Lake Taupo are one of the most celebrated examples of Maori traditional art. One of the most striking attractions of Lake Taupo, the immense carvings adorn the cliff faces of the bay. They tower over 14 metres above the crystal-clear water.
Although the designs appear like the remains of an ancient Maori settlement, they were in fact carved by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and a team of artists over four years in the 1970s. The dramatic works are some of the largest rock art of their kind in the world. The main carving depicts Ngatoroirangi, the Maori visionary who guided the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to Lake Taupo over a thousand years ago. Flanking Ngatoroirangi are smaller sculptures that depict kaitiaki (guardians) or tupuna (ancestors) of the local Maori tribe.
Only viewable from the water, visiting the Maori Rock Carvings is a popular boat or kayak excursion from Taupo. The experience of viewing the carvings close up as you float beneath the cliffs is one you will never forget.
- TikiTiki is the top knot that sits at the peak of Ngatoroirangi's head. It represents his ability to communicate to lo Matua Kore, the highest god in the Maori culture.
- Matakite the spiritual eye (or third eye) represents the sixth sense. It is shown here in the centre of the forehead.
- Aho/Mauri begins at the tip of the nose and runs up the centre of the nose, through the forehead, to the bottom of the TikiTiki, representing the connection to the spiritual world.
- Te Haa is the spirit wind and is depicted on the bridge of Ngatoroirangi's nose, representing Ngatoroirangi's discernment and intuition.
- Whatukura is the design on the upper lip. It depicts the angel that represents the most sacred bird in Maori culture, the White Kotuku. The White Kotuku carried the three baskets of knowledge from the spiritual world to earth.
- Matakokiri is the design that runs over Ngatoroirangi's top and bottom lip. It is symbolic of the waka (canoe) belonging to a powerful god from the celestial realm Puhaorangi, an ancestor of Ngatoroirangi's.
- Mareikura is shown on Ngatoroirangi's chin, the symbolism being the Hokioi (Haast Eagle) who is the messenger between God and man. These two symbols (including Whatakura) on Ngatoroirangi's face gave him the rank of High Priest.