Door lintel (pare)

RI 26.16


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. A 'pare' usually sits above the main entrance of the meeting house. 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).