Awarua o Porirua taniwha at Mana Island

Awarua O Porirua is a taniwha of Porirua harbour. The young Awarua wanted to be able to migrate with his friends the birds. So, secretly by night, he taught himself to fly. He crashed twice on his first public flight – the second time into Mana Island, taking the top off it.

This Awarua is based on pre-European Maori drawings of a taniwha and a bird form found in caves at Opihi and Te Manunui in South Canterbury. I first saw the Opihi taniwha on the NZ Christmas stamp of 1960 – it fascinated me as a 5+ year old, I traced and copied it many times after that. And I finally got to visit it in early 2021, plus the excellent rock art museum in Timaru – as they said, these images were NZ’s first art gallery.

A well-known Ngai Tahu rock art researcher, Gerard O’Regan, contacted me in January 2019 for permission to show this in his museum and university talks that refer to the modern re-use of rock art imagery. 

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