Step inside a sacred structure from New Zealand.
Built in 1881 on Tokomaru Bay, this wharenui (FAH-reh-new-EE) is one of only three such Maori meeting houses now outside of New Zealand. Structural elements of the house form the body of Ruatepupuke (roo-AH-tay-PU-pu-keh), the Maori ancestor who brought the art of woodcarving to the world. Look for his carved face at the top of the roof, as his arms—the long, wooden gables—welcome you inside.
The Maori are the first settlers of New Zealand. They arrived around the 14th century and currently make up about 15 percent of New Zealand’s population. Today, they have a strong presence in New Zealand’s government and society—while maintaining cultural and craft traditions that celebrate the past and flourish with contemporary inspiration.
A meeting house like this is the focal point of a marae, a sacred area where members of a Maori community gather for celebrations, funerals, and religious and political meetings. This meeting house is still used in the spirit of its original purpose, welcoming diverse groups of many backgrounds from across Chicago and around the world. Gatherings held on the marae bring people together for events, ranging from dance performances to local community celebrations.
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