Guide Bella's wharepuni gets heritage status

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The late Arthur Moke - who proposed Guide Bella's whare for listing as a wahi tupuna - in front of Te Awa i Manukau. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The late Arthur Moke - who proposed Guide Bella's whare for listing as a wahi tupuna - in front of Te Awa i Manukau. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A small, carved wharepuni at Whakarewarewa, home of the Ngati Wahiao/Tuhourangi people and international tourist destination in Rotorua, has been listed as a Wahi Tupuna with Heritage New Zealand earlier this year.

Te Awa i Manukau was built in 1925 for Guide Bella Papakura by her husband Aperehama Wiari.

It was named after the Ngati Wahiao/Tuhourangi ancestor Te Awa i Manukau as a reminder of her inherent mana and prestige, which was passed down to Bella through her ancestors.

The whare stands as a reminder of Guide Bella and her contribution to the Whakarewarewa community.

Born in 1870 as Isabella Pattison, 'Bella' was the daughter of Tuhourangi woman Rakera Ihaia and Englishman William Arthur Thom.

She lived through the devastating Tarawera eruption in 1886, and spent many of her younger years at schools away from home.

She was well versed in Tuhourangi knowledge and through her schooling became proficient in the English language and culture.

With her ability to converse and interact so easily with tourists she became one of the most requested guides of her time, showcasing the cultural and natural wonders of Whakarewarewa to tourists.

Bella, along with her sister Maggie, eventually led a 'Maori Dance Troup', taking Maori song and dance to the world stage.

One of the group's songs was named Pakete Whero which was composed by Guide Bella.

This was a poi item about the red scarves that she and her love would wear to secretly show their fondness for each other.

"This song is still sung today for tourists who visit Whakarewarewa," says Heritage New Zealand Maori heritage advisor Tamoe Ngata who carried out the research for the Wahi Tupuna proposal.

"As a salute to Bella and their guiding heritage, the red scarf is worn by Tuhourangi women when performing or representing Tuhourangi at formal occasions."

The façade of Te Awa i Manukau, with its maihi extending down both sides, can be likened to Guide Bella with her arms extended to the many guests she hosted - including the Duke and Duchess of York, and later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1927.

The red paint which colours the frame of the façade can also be likened to the red scarf that Guide Bella would wear.

In her absence, her whare Te Awa i Manukau stands in her place perpetuating her memory in the community that she helped build.

She and Aperehama are buried in the family cemetery directly behind Te Awa i Manukau.

Bella was taken under the wing of legendary Guide Sophia Hinerangi, who had sheltered 62 people in her whare during the Tarawera eruption in 1886.

Sophia trained her in guiding, which became Bella's passion.

"In 1905, the Tourist Department formalised guiding and the operation of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve. Bella was the first guide to be licensed under the system and, in 1905, she received Guide Certificate No. 1," Tamoe Ngata.

"Bella suffered a stroke in 1934 and she never returned to guiding at Whakarewarewa before her death in 1950. Her guiding number was never re-issued, however, and she was always acknowledged as the head guide during that time - such was her mana."

Compiled under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (the Act), the New Zealand Heritage List / Rarangi Korero identifies the nation's heritage places. The List is divided into five parts - Historic places, Historic areas, Wahi tupuna , Wahi tapu
and Wahi tapu areas.

Wahi tupuna is a new classification under the Act.

Wahi tupuna differ from wahi tapu in that they do not necessarily adhere to the 'tapu' or sacredness to Maori in the traditional, spiritual, religious, ritual or mythological sense.

Wahi tupuna still have great significance to Maori however - but for values that may be different from those associated with wahi tapu, and that are connected to tupuna.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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