Gable figure (Tekoteko)
Not on view
Ancestors (tupuna) play a central role in Maori art and culture. The majority of human images (tiki) in Maori art portray ancestors, and some of the finest ancestor images were, and are, created as architectural ornaments. This imposing tiki is a tekoteko (gable ornament), which once adorned the roof peak of one of the major buildings in a Maori village, likely that of a storehouse (pataka), belonging to the village chief and used to safeguard food, tools, weapons, and other items. Each gable ornament depicts a founding ancestor, the progenitor of the group (iwi) of which the community forms a part. In this image, the ancestor grasps a kotiate (a type of hand club) firmly in his right hand. The kotiate was used in hand-to-hand combat, and its presence suggests that this ancestor was an accomplished warrior. Probably carved in the 1820s, this work, which was collected soon after it was made, still preserves its original polychrome paint.