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Te Paru (Mud)

Mud, mud, glorious mud, there’s nothing quite like it. Mud lets us whakatupu kai (grow food) and make the pereti (plate) to eat it from. Without it, trees would topple over!

Ko Hawaiki-kai-nui

I ahu mai te kūmara me te taro, te hue me te aute, i Hawaiki. Te taenga ki te whenua hou ka tahuri ngā tūpuna ki te keri māra i roto i ngā oneone o te whenua hou. Whakatakotoria ai e rātou he kōhatu whakairo hei taunga mō te atua, pēnei i tēnei, hei pupuru i te mauri o ngā kai, kia pai ai te tupu.

Taumata Atua, c. mid-1700s, basalt, Te Wai-O-Hua iwi.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. 53023.

Ko tēnei taumata atua i takea mai i Ngā Māra a Te Tahuri. I mahia ēnei māra i te takiwā o te tau 1750 i te taha i te pā o te rangatira o te iwi o Wai o Hua, o Kiwi Tāmaki. I kitea tēnei taumata atua i te tau 1989 i te taha o Maungakiekie.

A spiritual place for growth

Māori have long been prolific gardeners, harnessing the power of the soil beneath our feet.

Carved statues like this one are called taumata atua and are placed in kūmara fields to encourage crops to flourish.

This one was found in 1989 on the side of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). It most likely came from the vegetable garden Ngā Māra a Te Tahuri, which grew around the 1750s on the pā site of Te Wai-o-Hua chief Kiwi Tāmaki.

A treasure in the sludge

Early Auckland had many rawa taiao (natural resources) stuck in the mud.

For thousands of years, kauri gum lay undisturbed in the paru (mud), having oozed out of the giant kauri rākau (trees) that once covered most of Auckland.

Then in the 1800s the new hunga tauhou (settlers) discovered that it made a fantastic varnish, and the digging began in earnest! From 1850 to 1900 kauri gum was Auckland’s main export - ahead of gold, wūru (wool) and kauri timber.

Kauri gum.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

These pūtu (boots) were made for kicking

Muddy maharatanga (memories) are often carried on the bottom of a pair of rugby boots.

There was a time when professional rugby players got very muddy playing a game in a downpour. Now a match on a mākū (wet) day at Eden Park leaves most with only a lick of mud on their boots.

Sāmoan Aucklander Vince Tavae-Aso is just 20 years old so he's used to the super-groomed pātiki (fields). He played for Auckland, but this tau (season) he's with the Hurricanes in Wellington. When's the last time you rolled in the paru (mud)?

Take time out for a cuppa

To make matapaia (pottery) you need large amounts of uku (clay), a very useful type of mud.

West Auckland's Whau River had plenty of clay so it was the ideal location for early colonial brick and pottery wheketere (works). And it was only a short boat ride to the city!

The most famous company was Crown Lynn in New Lynn. At their 1970s peak, the factory produced millions of pottery items every tau (year), with virtually every New Zealand home owning a piece.

Cup and saucer, 1960s, Crown Lynn.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. 1996.146.1

Ngā paru ātaahua o te taiao

He taonga nui te paru ki ngā ringa whatu kākaku.

I takea mai te pango o tēnei kahu tōī i te paru, he paru pōuri kenekene, kī tonu i te rino ōkai. Whakamahia ai tēnei paru hei hoatu kauparenga wai, hei tāwai hoki i ngā kākahu ki tētahi tae pango.

Ka hoatu hoki e ngā mātanga whatu he rau kūmara me ētahi atu kaka otaota, hei whakamamangu i te paru. Ahakoa tōkau noa iho te āhua o tēnei kākahu, he kākahu nō te toa, he kahu whai mana.

A cape fit for a leader

Some mud you don’t want to wash off your clothes.

The black colour of the kahu tōī (rain cape) comes from paru, a dark mud rich in iron oxide, which Māori use to waterproof and dye clothes.

To make the cape look extra dark, this black mud was 'fed' with kūmara leaves and other plant fibre. Despite its plain appearance, the cape is a high-status garment worn by leaders.


Cite this article

MacFarlane, Kirsten. Te Paru (Mud). Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 5 June 2015. Updated: 21 June 2016.
URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/discover/collections/topics/te-paru-mud

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