No two of the hundreds of faces gazing out from the richly carved walls of this meetinghouse are exactly alike. Each is said to symbolize a specific ancestor of the Maori people of New Zealand, which is why meeting houses such as this hold a special place in their hearts. The large face carved at the roof summit represents Maori ancestor Ruatepupuke, who is credited with bringing the art of woodcarving to the world. Through wide boards along the face of the roof, Ruatepupuke reaches out to welcome Museum visitors.
Originally built on Tokomaru Bay in 1881, this is one of only three such buildings outside New Zealand and serves as a spiritual outpost for sharing Maori culture and history. The building and surrounding area are governed by Maori customs to create a “marae,” a place where people gather as equals to explore differences and to seek out what unifies them.
Just beyond the courtyard of the meetinghouse, don’t miss the Marae Gallery, which features temporary exhibitions—often of striking photography—about cultural communities around the world.