How Hinemihi was built

This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

Two Ngati Tarawhai carvers (tohunga whakairo), Wero Taroi and Tene Waitere, were comissioned by Aporo to carve and build Hinemihi from locally grown totora wood. Neither man could read or write, but both men are now regarded as being among the great Maori carvers whose work is known today.

Wero and Tene's carvings on Hinemihi represent ancestors from tribal history and by including them in the meeting house, they were providing a place where their spirits could dwell and protect their descendents. 

As a gesture towards his status as a chief and the wealth he had generated from Te Wairoa’s tourism business, Aporo added a final flourish to Hinemihi. Instead of using traditional paua (Haliotis iris) shells to depict the eyes on carved figures outside and inside the meeting house, he attached gold sovereigns and half sovereigns.

The meeting house was completed in March 1881 when Aporo named his meeting house Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito  (Hinemihi of the old world). To local non-Maori and Te Wairoa’s visitors, the new meeting house became known as 'Hinemihi of the golden eyes.'

Aporo charged visitors one shilling to step inside the meeting house and £1,10s.0d to witness an organised performance of the haka, viewed from long wooden benches stretched along the length of the building.