Māori Chief’s Pātaka

Part of Hall of Pacific Peoples.

Maori figurative wood carvings.

A particularly striking example of whale imagery can be found in the elaborately carved whales trimming the front gable of this Māori chief’s pātaka, or elevated storage house used for the safekeeping of food and cultural treasures. 

For New Zealand’s Māori, the whale is a symbol of plenty. The meat and blubber of a beached whale could feed a community for months, and its bone was valuable as raw material for everything from hair combs to weapons.