JEWEL IN THE CATHEDRAL
The Aotearoa Chapel is a jewel within the Cathedral and symbolises the partnership between Māori and Pākehā, especially those who live in East Coast, Hawke’s Bay and the Bay of Plenty.
The Chapel is at the East end of the main space of the Cathedral and is regularly used for smaller services, such as morning prayer and evensong. It sits in an area that was left empty after the high altar was brought forward from the east wall to its central place in 1974.
The Chapel was dedicated on 30 April 1977 and was specially designed as a memorial to Sir Āpirana Ngata and Bishop Frederick Bennett who had both been involved with Waiapu diocese throughout the first half of the 20th Century.
While the English cathedral tradition is familiar with the idea of a Lady Chapel or other chapel being added on outside the main wall of a cathedral, some Māori people thought the ‘outsideness’ of the former Māori Chapel (which had been on the eastern extension of the church) was rather like an afterthought, and welcomed the move of the chapel to within the main space of the cathedral.
Cliff Whiting was the kaiwhakahaere (overseer/advisor) for the project to set up the Aotearoa Chapel.
Stairways to Heaven
Similar to those found in a wharenui (Māori meeting house), the tukutuku panels in the Chapel reflect aspects of the Christian faith and Māori culture – such as those behind the altar suggesting a stairway to heaven and a window overlooking a cross. Each panel is surrounded with red, white and black kowhaiwhai designs painted by Cliff Whiting.
Each of the Māori pastorates and Māori Mission Districts in the diocese were asked to prepare two woven tukutuku panels. Those from Te Puke-Tauranga are the first matching pair on each side of the chapel. They are followed by panels from Te Ngae and Ohinemutu, while those from Ngāti Porou are on the east wall.
Individuals were responsible for each of the pairs of panels have been named, but other weavers and people also helped create these beautiful works of art and prayer.
Cliff Whiting insisted on using traditional weaving material such a pingao and encouraged the weavers to complete our panels. Waiapu is grateful for Cliff’s contribution to our Cathedral and honours a great artist, carver, heritage advocate, and teacher.