Taniwha Picture

(In Pencil)

I did this piece as part of a school art project back in the late ‘90’s. We had to design our own Taniwha, put in things that symbolised ourselves, our Whanau (Family) and Iwi (Tribe), and then do several piece’s in different mediums. This piece was done entirely in pencil. The circle head represents a Koru (new life, my mum had just given birth to twins), another Koru sits on the back, while 3 more are on the arm. These represent each member of my Whanau. The flower design represents my personal signature. There is “fishnetting” to the side of the body, representing that my Iwi came from the sea.


In Māori mythology, taniwha (pronounced Ta–Knee-Fa) are beings that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents or deceptive breakers. Most taniwha are associated with tribal groups; each have a taniwha of their own. Many well-known taniwha arrived from Hawaiki, often as guardians of a particular ancestral canoe. Once arrived in Aotearoa, they took on a protective role over the descendants of the crew of the canoe they had accompanied.

When taniwha were accorded the appropriate respect, they usually acted well towards their people. Taniwha acted as guardians by warning of the approach of enemies, communicating the information via a priest who was a medium; sometimes the taniwha saved people from drowning. Because they lived in dangerous or dark and gloomy places, the people were careful to placate the taniwha with appropriate offerings if they needed to be in the vicinity or to pass by its lair.
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