SINGAPORE: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled a Maori carving at Cloud Forest in Gardens by the Bay on Tuesday (Apr 19), as part of her three-day visit to Singapore.
The Kūwaha sculpture is a "bespoke Maori carving and represents a symbolic doorway – a threshold celebrating cultures, beliefs and identities", said Gardens by the Bay in a media release.
Named Tāne Te Waiora, the sculpture represents and reaffirms the special relationship between Singapore and New Zealand. It comprises three pieces made of totara wood from the Pureora Forest in the central North Island of New Zealand.
The sculpture is crafted from a tree that is estimated to be more than 2,500 years old, which "fell naturally" in a forest during a severe storm, said Gardens by the Bay. Measuring 3.2m tall and 3.6m across, the sculpture is carved by master carver James Rickard and specialist carver Tommy Herbert of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts institute.
The sculpture's name, Tāne Te Waiora, translates to Tane, the giver of life, said Gardens by the Bay.
The personified form of sunlight, Tāne is represented in the sculpture by the two figures carved on the left and right of the whakawae, or upright supports. These depict the Haumietiketike, the atua or spiritual guardian of uncultivated crops, and the Rongomatane, the atua or spiritual guardian of agriculture and cultivated crops.
The "reciprocity" between the two countries, as well as Singapore's history as a long-standing trading post, were represented in the pare, or lintel, connecting the upright supports. The pare features two tauihu - the prow of a waka or sea vessel.
At the centre of the pare is a wheku - a carving of a face - depicting Hina, the personafication of the moon.
"Hina reinforces the importance of light in Māori culture, which symbolically denotes awakening and enlightenment," said Gardens by the Bay.
Plants native to New Zealand surround the sculpture, such as the Totora. Others include the Silver Fern, a plant that is emblematic of New Zealand; Hen and Chickens Fern, a wild crop; Kumara or sweet potato, as well as the Pepper Tree, which has medicinal properties.
The donation of Tāne Te Waiora to Cloud Forest was "made possible" with the support of the New Zealand High Commission, as well as sponsors Fonterra, Tourism New Zealand and Zespri, said Gardens by the Bay.
Chief Executive Officer of Gardens by the Bay, Felix Loh, said Maori art and culture has deep significance in New Zealand's cultural history.
"We are grateful for this precious gift to be placed permanently at the entrance of Cloud Forest as a lasting symbol of the close friendship between our two countries," said he said.
Ms Ardern is in Singapore as part of a trade mission and was at the Istana to call on President Halimah Yacob and Mr Lee. This is her first official trip abroad since the pandemic began in early 2020.