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8-metre-tall carved Māori monument to be unveiled in Zonnebeke

A new memorial honouring the role of New Zealand’s Maori and other service people in the First World War will be unveiled in the Passchendaele Memorial Park, next to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Zonnebeke on Anzac Day, 25 April 2019.

The pou maumahara (memorial carving) was created from 4,500-year-old native New Zealand timber by master carvers, tutors and students from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) in Rotorua, New Zealand. Please see footage of the carving here: https://vimeo.com/125096123

NZMACI board member David Tapsell says the pou maumahara is named “Pohutukawa” after a native New Zealand tree that symbolises new beginnings.

“Pohutukawa trees welcomed the tupuna (ancestors) of New Zealand’s Maori people when they first arrived in the country, as well as being the tree that spiritually farewells our loved ones.”

The red pohutukawa flower is also often compared to the poppy at Passchendaele when it blooms.

“The carving has two sides representing Tumatauenga (war) and Rongomaraeroa (peace), acknowledging those who sailed vast distances to take part in the war, as well as those who remained in New Zealand,” says Mr Tapsell.

“The memorial carving celebrates the memory of our ancestors, expressed through our nation’s greatest carvers. NZMACI is proud to have produced this magnificent work and to gift it to the community of Zonnebeke.”

The memorial weighs just over six tonnes and stands eight metres tall.

New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium Gregory Andrews says the unveiling of the pou maumahara carving is a fitting way to conclude New Zealand’s centenary commemorations in Belgium.

“The story the pou maumahara tells is part of New Zealand’s shared history with Belgium – and the reason so many of our people travel here every year to honour the memory of those who fought in the First World War.

“This is also the first time the role of Maori in the First World War has been recognised in this way in Europe.”

Mayor of Zonnebeke Dirk Sioen says the installation of the pou maumahara in Zonnebeke, next to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, is a symbol for our community of the long-lasting bond with New Zealand.

“It is of uttermost importance to tell and spread our common history to the many visitors of the former battlefields of Passchendaele,” he says.

The memorial carving will be unveiled at a special ceremony following Australia and New Zealand’s annual ANZAC Day dawn service at the CWGC Buttes New British Cemetery in Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Representatives from NZMACI, including one of the Institute’s master carvers, will also be holding workshops within the community highlighting Maori culture to support interaction between cultures in the weeks before ANZAC Day. Master carver James Rickard will be in Zonnebeke completing the Pou Maumahara from 6 – 16 April. Members of the media are welcome to film or photograph while he is doing this.

Sidebar:

Event: Unveiling of new memorial carving honouring the role of New Zealand’s Maori and other service people in the First World War

When: ANZAC Day (25 April), 8.45 AM, following Australia and New Zealand’s annual dawn service

Where: Passchendaele Memorial Park, next to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Berten Pilstraat 5C, 8980 Zonnebeke, Belgium