Te Haa o te Ao “The Breath of the World”

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In July 2021 Te Haa o Te Ao (The Breath of the World) is set to form a striking entranceway to Kerikeri, Waipapa and the surrounding area.  

The aim of the sculpture is to raise awareness among locals and visitors about the greatest threat humanity is facing today: climate change.

  • Our hapū, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia, invited me to come up with a design eight years ago – it has taken this long to attract the necessary funds to build it and for this we must immensely thank Ngāti Rēhia and very much the local charitable trust and community organisation, Our Kerikeri – a group of caring forward thinking folk who have the future needs of Kerikeri in mind, such as revamping the Domain, focussing on facilities for youth and improving the entranceway to Kerikeri. It was through their hard work that, just before Christmas 2020, a substantial grant was awarded from the Provincial Growth Fund and the Honourable Shane Jones of the NZ First Party. In addition huge thanks are given to the many generous local donors who contributed over the past eight years. 

Suspended on stainless steel cables from the 17m high central pole (pou) will be 120 boulders (about 30 tonne) simulating poi*. 

The pou will be topped by a sculpture by Tuauahiroa Hei Hei made of cast metal in the form of the heads of three native birds, the kāhu (hawk) facing southwards towards oncoming traffic, the tūī facing west into the bush and the kāwau (shag) facing seawards.

With a winch, the collar over the wires can be moved up and down, causing the poi (boulders) to rise “like a bird’s wing”. The sculpture being under high tension means that we are in a state of conflict with the environment.

Te Haa o te Ao - tension, Chris Booth, artist's diary

This is not a scientific instrument – it is a work of art.  It is just like music – by playing certain notes, one can vary the mood from peaceful to high tension.  So by moving the poi the viewer’s visual response changes from peaceful to high tension.  It therefore reflects the efforts we are making in combating climate change.

The sculpture will be

  • a meaningful and powerful greeting to everyone passing through this gateway
  • an artistic, responsive warning signal to humanity about the state of the environment vis-à-vis climate change
  • an opportunity for our local school’s social and scientific involvement to monitor the well-being of our environment
  • a challenge to tackle human effects on the climate and on the environment and people’s engagement with it  
  • a collaborative project by Māori and Pākehā, young and old
  • an environmentally inspired thought-provoking icon to be visited, contemplated and talked about.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia, Waka Kotahi, PGF, FNDC, Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi, Oxford Trust, Rotary and Lions (Waipapa and Kerikeri), Probus, Vision Kerikeri, Aroha Island Charitable Trust, Living Waters, Kerikeri High School, Kerikeri Primary School, Springbank School, Riverview School, BOI International Acadamy and One School Global plus numerous individuals have expressed their support for the project.  

  • poi – a light ball on a string of varying length which is swung or twirled rhythmically to sung accompaniment. Traditionally the ball was made of raupō leaves. However, according to a Ngāti Rēhia kaumatua, a poi was originally also a weapon using a stone on the end of a string.