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Tangaroa whakamau tai 


Tangaroa the controller of the tides 



The vast expanse of the ocean is the domain of Tangaroa, great lord of the sea. All of the creature that live in the ocean are the descendants of Tangaroa, from the mighty whales, to all the species of fish, shell fish, seaweed and even crustaceans. Collectively these beings are referred to by Māori as ‘te tini a Tangaroa’ or the multitudes of Tangaroa. Since the defeat of Tangaroa by Tū not long after the separation of the sky and the earth, mankind has harvested the children of Tangaroa as food, and his bounty is seemingly endless. However, even though Tangaroa is teeming with life, it is unwise to disrespect Tangaroa least you be on the wrong end of his wrath. For this reason Māori observed strict customs when gathering seafood, including not eating the children of Tangaroa while being in or near the ocean. Likewise, Māori acknowledged Tangaroa when traveling on the sea and there are many incantations that mention Tangaroa. 

Tāngaroa also has an influence over artistic pursuits, and Rua is said to have travelled to his ocean home returning with knowledge of carving and tattooing. This is the reason that the name of Tangaroa is mentioned during incantations that are used to opening houses. It was Tangaroa who inspired man to carve both wood and skin. 

Tangaroa is said to have taken two wives. The first was Pūtehue, a daughter of Tāne and also the origin of the hue. His second was Hineteiwaiwa, another daughter of Tāne and the origin of weaving. Their child was Tangaroa Akiukiu, father of both Hinetakurua and Hineraumati, the famous sister wives of Tamanuiterā. 

Tangaroa is personified in the creatures from the ocean depths and the swells and waves that crash against the shore. He can be kind and giving and then suddenly turn angry and violent. His nature is unpredictable and at times hard. ‘Tangaroa kiri uka, tangaroa kiri kōhatu’ is a saying applied to people who display similar traits. It means Tangaroa with skin like a shark, with skin like stone.


Words by Rangi Matamua


  • Dimensions: A3 international paper size | 297 x 420 mm or 11.7 x 16.5 in

    Materials: Digital print on 300GSM double laid courier paper


    This item can only be shipped to New Zealand and Australia 

  • These are just my personal interpretations of what Atua could look like. They do not reflect the views and interpretations of all Maori people. 


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