Walton Walker clearly recalls the morning when he captured this picturesque image of the Maunga.
“I was heading back to Reporua marae for a working bee about four years ago. It was near the end of winter, going into spring and I remember it was quite cold. As I was driving up the Puketiti (or Sugarloaf) hill – past the turn off to Ihungia, and just before you get to Kopuaroa on the other side – I was able to safely stop at a rest area to take this pic."
"Anyway it was lucky that I had my camera with me andit was charged up, because when I travelled back to Gisborne late that afternoon, the snow had all melted. I wouldn’t be able to take the same shot now, because the pine trees behind the rest area have grown taller, obscuring the clear view I had back then.”
Walton says he is always on the lookout for various vantage spots from where he can take different shots of the Maunga. However he also has an ultimate image in mind, which has so far proved elusive.
“The challenge I have set myself is to capture all five principal maunga – Hikurangi, Whanokao, Taitai, Aorangi and Wharekia in one photograph, when they are all dressed in their best garments (covered in snow). However you can’t dictate to a maunga to be ready and waiting until I come along and take their picture.”
Researching the history and korero of the Tairawhiti region has been an ongoing passion for Walton, and over the past 6 years he has shared this knowledge through a series of publications in the Gisborne Herald (“Nga Maunga Korero”) and lecture series (“The Journey’s & Settlements of Our Ancestors”). He says throughout our history the political leaders of our tribe have used Hikurangi as a symbolic representation of leadership, identity and self determination.
“Te Rangitawaea, Te Aotaki and Te Kani a Takirau are some of those who have referenced Hikurangi in their korero. The Maunga could perhaps be seen as a physical manifestation of how we identify ourselves. Within our region you can’t get any bigger than Hikurangi, it’s our highest maunga. You have to treat it with respect, to not do so could be at your own peril.”
The following korero is an excerpt from an article from the series, "Nga Maunga Korero o Te Tairawhiti – Footprints of History", by Walton Walker (2008).
“Mountains hold a special place in our lives and in our culture. They symbolise many things for many people— home, shelter, protection, identity, awe, inspiration, solitude, permanence, boundary — and we forever marvel at these creations of nature fashioned by nature’s tools."
They are the subject of lore and legend, of song and dance, of speech and conversation. They move us to create, to compose, to fashion and shape; they inspire us to explore, to challenge and aspire. They test our resolve about who we are and where we are from, reminding us that no matter where we go, they will always be there when we return.
It is not surprising, therefore, that mountains are revered and treasured, and the mountains in our region of Te Tairawhiti are no different. If only these mountains could talk — what would they tell us? More than we know, obviously.”