Why was she built?
In the late 19th century the small settlement of Te Wairoa, located in a volcanic region of New Zealand’s North Island, was an established tourism centre. Victorian tourists could experience Māori culture, witness performances of the famous haka and could spend the night in a wooden hotel.
Hinemihi’s construction began in 1880. Commissioned by Chief Aporo Wharekaniwha, head of the Ngāti Hinemihi sub-tribe, she was created to fill the traditional roles of a meeting house but also to entertain tourists interested in cultural performances. Few meeting houses bear female names but Aporo chose to name Hinemihi after a noted female ancestor, famous in legend for keeping the company of a giant lizard.
How was she built?
Two carvers, Wero Taroi and Tene Waitere, were commissioned by Aporo to build Hinemihi from local totara wood. Both men are now regarded as being among the great Māori carvers. Wero and Tene's carvings represent ancestors from tribal history and by including them in the meeting house, they provided a place where their spirits could dwell and protect their descendants.