Protecting a Legacy
“We hope the art piece will resist the elements into the next 100 years or more because of hot-dip galvanizing. The contemporary hot-dip galvanized material will enable the Rangitāne people to acknowledge their past while enjoying the present and teaching future generations about the story behind the design and their history at the site where the sculpture is erected.”
The proud Māori (indigenous people) of New Zealand embrace the rich cultural history of their ancestors. The Rangitāne Māori iwi (tribe) traces their origins to Whātonga, one of three chiefs who commanded the Kurahaupō canoe as it sailed to New Zealand between 1150 and 1350. Although there were disputes between Rangitāne and neighboring tribes, for three or four centuries life was relatively calm. That was until Northern tribes encroached upon the Manawatū and Horowhenua areas as they made their way to the Kāpiti Coast. The Rangitāne confronted the newcomers, fighting many battles until peace agreements were negotiated.
The tangata whenua (people of the land) with an 800+ year connection to Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga (Manawatū region) honor the battles fought by their ancestors with a new steel sculpture situated within a rohe (territory) where Rangitāne warriors trained in the arts of warfare. A Hokowhitu/Hokowhi Tumataenga is an ancestral military term meaning 140 warriors suitably trains in the arts of Tumataenga (the god of conflict and warfare) ready to undertake the defensive tasks required of them by their iwi. The new statue represents the strength and courage of these warriors while also standing as a symbol to aspire on-lookers to be the best self they can be.
Typically, Iwi Māori sculptures are made with wood, stone and other solid materials; however, steel is growing in popularity for its flexibility in design. Due to the selection of steel for this project, the artist was able to add scale and internal carvings not normally possible when using other mediums. There are two internal figures fabricated into the art piece. A guardian figure in the head to support purity of thought and a second figure in the body to signify whakapapa (parentage) and chieftainship which is an important attribute for Rangitāne iwi males.
Although the selection of steel allowed the artist to incorporate unique and meaningful features, the team had to consider how to protect the final sculpture from the corrosive atmosphere. The salty sea air surrounding New Zealand can wreak havoc on steel that hasn’t been protected. Unsightly rust would be unacceptable on an important sculpture of this stature and it would not pay homage to the ‘Atua’ (God) it was named after. A local, highly reputable galvanizer taught the project team about the protective qualities of hot-dip galvanizing years ago when constructing the Whatonga sculpture and they determined it would be the best option for this sculpture as well. Longevity was the most sought after benefit; however, they also desired aesthetic look of silvered steel.
Hot-dip galvanizing offered a solution to corrosion control that enabled the project team to use a medium that could bring their vision to life. Communication between the artist, fabricator and galvanizer was important to ensure drain and vent holes were incorporated in to the design. All team members knew exactly how the item was going to be dipped before it even arrived at the galvanizer’s facility. Careful attention to the suspension of the sculpture during galvanizing was necessary to ensure all parts could be coated without creating air pockets or zinc traps. The extra effort was evident in the resulting finish quality. Hot-dip galvanizing will give lasting weather resistance to the sculpture for future generation to enjoy, and it will help the sculpture remain contemporary into the future.