3.6m-tall kūwaha greeting visitors to Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

By Will Trafford

Photo / Gardens by the Bay

Visitors to Singapore's world-renowned 'Gardens by the Bay' are to be treated to a te ao Māori experience following the unveiling of a 3.6 x 3.2 metre kūwaha, gifted to the country’s government during Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s three-day trade trip to the country.

Ardern gifted the kūwaha, named Tāne Te Waiora to Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Halimah Yacob at a ceremony at the gardens today; it is her first overseas trip since the Covid-19 Omicron variant began spreading across the country.

The kūwaha was carved at Te Puia, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua. Master carver James Rickard led the project, which took two years to complete. Ardern said the gift was about cementing New Zealand's relationship with the Southeast Asian commercial hub.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveils the kūwaha sculpture at Gardens by the Bay's Cloud Forest on Apr 19, 2022. Photo / Gardens by the Bay

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveils the kūwaha sculpture at Gardens by the Bay's Cloud Forest on Apr 19, 2022. Photo / Gardens by the Bay

“Tāne Te Waiora is a bespoke carving, which takes the form of a kūwaha and represents a symbolic doorway. It is a metaphor for our reconnection with Singapore, demonstrating our intention to strengthen the “doorway” between New Zealand and Singapore, and the rest of the world,” the prime minister said during the unveiling.

“The presence on the kūwaha of Hina, represented by the moon, and Tāne, represented by the crops, are also significant as they symbolise a relationship of trust and reciprocity - defining features of New Zealand’s relationship with Singapore.”

The Prime Minister has been accompanied by Trade and Economic Growth Minister Damien O'Connor; the government says the trip is about rebuilding and establishing new economic ties following the isolation of border restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

Gardens by the Bay CEO Felix Loh and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tour Orchid Haven at Gardens by the Bay's Cloud Forest on Apr 19, 2022. Photo / Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay CEO Felix Loh and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tour Orchid Haven at Gardens by the Bay's Cloud Forest on Apr 19, 2022. Photo / Gardens by the Bay

“The reopening of borders is an important first step in rebuilding our people-to-people links that will lay the foundation for our future cooperation,” she said

“We look forward to warmly welcoming our Singaporean friends to New Zealand from May 2, when our border reopens to visa waiver countries. In turn, I am also pleased New Zealand visitors can now enjoy the sights and sounds of Singapore,” Ardern told a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs during a speech on Tuesday.

The kūwaha is surrounded by several plants and trees from Aotearoa, including totara, the silver fern, horopito and a wild crop of kūmara.

Gardens by the Bay chief executive Felix Loh said he was grateful for the taonga given its significance to Aotearoa’s cultural history.

"We are grateful for this precious gift to be placed permanently at the entrance of Cloud Forest as a lasting symbol of the close friendship between our two countries," he said.