Regional | Māori

Rangitāne ancestor Whātonga sculpture disfigured by vandals


The phallus on a prominent Māori sculpture in Te Āpiti-Manawatū Gorge has been cut off by vandals, shocking the stakeholders of the popular reserve.

Whātonga, a steel statue standing over six -metres tall, has guarded the top of the Tawa Loop Track for more than a decade.

But someone carted steel-cutting equipment to the top of the track and removed its phallus on the night of December 30, a media release from the Te Āpiti-Manawatū Gorge governance group on Tuesday confirmed.

Its Rangitāne o Manawatū representative, Danielle Harris, said Whātonga was a significant ancestor of the iwi and his statue not only acknowledged his place in their whakapapa and history, but he was also a way to educate visitors to Te Āpiti about who they were as an iwi nation.

“To say we are disgusted to have a part of that story so disrespectfully removed is an understatement.

“It clearly shows the ignorance and lack of understanding by some individuals of art and its place in our world. We encourage those responsible to front up to the act.”

Whātonga has sat above the Tawa Loop Track for more than a decade.

Harris said the patterns on the statue told the great story of Whatonga as a chief and explorer.

“Rangitāne have a whakataukī (proverb) that talks about there being as many Rangitāne people on the land as there are stars in the sky, so this vandalism to the reproductive organs of Whātonga is an insult to a belief system we hold precious.”