Door Lintel

RI 26.16

About this object

The ‘pare’ is one of the most important carvings in a Maori meeting house, as it guards the threshold between two worlds - the meeting space outside where strangers are welcomed and debates take place, and the family space inside with its sculptures of the ancestors. The meeting house itself usually represents an ancestor of the tribe, so different parts of the house represent different parts of the body of this ancestor. The central female figure on this door lintel represents a female ancestor.

This pare was “carved with steel tools in the Ngāti Porou style. The central female figure has the right hand on the chest, left hand on the stomach in a sign of pregnancy. The bodies of medium-size manaia – which are probably human life and godly life (ira tangata and ira atua) – are at either side, together with six small figures. The tongue of the central figure emerges from the mouth, giving the ancestor and descendants the right to speak.” (David Simmons, ‘The Carved Pare: A Maori Mirror of the Universe’, Huia, Wellington, 2001, pp98-99).

Object specifics

  • Type
    Architecture; Religion
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Oceania: Polynesia: New Zealand: North Island: Gisborne
  • Date made
    1894 before
  • Materials
    Wood; Abalone (Haliotis sp); Technique: Carved, inlaid
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, World Cultures
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Liverpool Royal Institution, from a loan in 1894
  • Collector
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place collected
    Not recorded
  • Date collected
    1894 before
  • Measurements
    79.0 x 4.5 x 33.0 cm
  • Note
    An elaborately-carved wooden door lintel, in a rounded 'W' shape, with the wood pierced between the figures. There are eleven figures in total, all female. The main ones are a central humanoid figure and two manaia (more abstract bird-headed figures with prominent beaks) on each side, forming curved shapes. There are also three smaller humanoid figures on each side of the central one. The main humanoid figure and the two outermost manaia have shell-inlaid eyes with central pegs and the outer edges of the shell serrated. The eyes of some of the other figures probably had shell inlay originally, which has been lost. The innermost manaia have webbed feet. All the other figures have three-fingered hands and three-toed feet. The main humanoid figure has a rounded beaked mouth. Its tongue is positioned sideways, with a divided base and the tip emerging from the right side. There is a small plain spiral on its wide forehead. Its right hand is held to its chest and left hand held to its stomach. The other humanoid figures have beaked mouths with only slightly protruding tongues. The main surface pattern includes plain double spirals, mainly on the figures' shoulders and thighs, with three ritorito (fish-scale pattern) spirals on the manaia on the right side. Other patterns are rauponga (several parallel ridges and grooves with a notched ridge in between) and pakura (rolling spirals with crescents in between).

    Attribution: Gisborne, 1850-60 in Ngati Kahungunu style (David Simmons, October 1981); East Coast of North Island (Ngarino Ellis, 25 March 1999).

    Illustrated in G Archey (1960: 208, fig 7 and plate 40B) 'Pare (Door Lintels) of Human Figure Composition', Records of the Auckland Institute & Museum 5; and Gilbert Archey (1977: 26, fig 31) 'Whaowhia - Maori Art and its Artists', Collins: Auckland. Illustrated in David Simmons (2001: 99, fig 31) 'The Carved Pare: A Maori Mirror of the Universe', Huia: Wellington.
  • Related people
    Liverpool Royal Institution (Previous owner)

Explore related


  • Pare (Door Lintels) of Human Figure Composition

    Archey, Gilbert

    Author: Archey, Gilbert
    Publisher: Auckland Institute and Museum
    Date: 1960-09-23

  • The Carved Pare: A Maori Mirror of the Universe

    Simmons, David

    Author: Simmons, David
    Publisher: Huia Publishers
    Date: 2001

  • Whaowhia - Maori Art and its Artists

    Archey, Gilbert

    Author: Archey, Gilbert
    Publisher: Collins
    Date: 1977


Previous owners

  • Liverpool Royal Institution

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1894
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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