05 / Meeting House / Wharenui

In traditional Māori society the meeting house, or wharenui, faced the open communal space, or marae. The house was an elaborate structure, its carved elements – including bargeboards and ridge post – representing the various parts of the human body. Such houses were named after tribal ancestors, who were represented by the carvings and decorative panels that lined the interior walls. These meeting houses represented both tribal history and were an expression of mana (prestige) and achievement. In the late 19th century, a number of meeting houses were distinguished by the use of painted panels in place of carved panels.


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