Ngāi Tahu gifts 580 pounamu pendants to Olympic, Paralympic athletes

By Jessica Tyson

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has given 580 pounamu pendants representing strength and connection to the New Zealand Olympic and Paralympic teams in Ōtautahi.

The new pendants, named Te Taumutu o Angitu – The Pinnacle of Success, were designed by Ngāi Tahu master carver Fayne Robinson and hand-carved by Aaron Shannon, Aaron Tauwhare, Kurtis Bell, and Josh Tamainu of Ngāti Waewae on Te Tai o Poutini.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says, “Pounamu is sacred to our people and we are honoured to have our athletes wearing our taonga in their pursuit of greatness.

“There is a rich symbolism behind all the elements in this stunning design but, equally importantly, we want athletes to attribute and imbue their own personal meaning into their piece of stone.”

The taonga named Te Taumutu o Angitu – The Pinnacle of Success. Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

The design

Tumahai says the design of each pendant is a disc form reflecting both Japan – the land of the rising sun and Aotearoa myth Māui and the sun.

The Mangopare (hammer head shark) kowhaiwhai symbolizes strength and the connection athletes will build by uplifting, supporting and enhancing each other as one team representing their country, says Tumahai.

“The weaved taura is a representation of the binding together of many to achieve a shared aspiration and goal.”

Tumahai says the pounamu came from an area called Greenstone Creek, found by a gold miner and returned to the iwi.

“It’s all been cut from one pounamu boulder which is what we call the marsden stone, which is really good quality jade.”

The blessing of the pounamu by Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri, mana whenua for Ōtautahi Christchurch. Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

A longlasting relationship

The relationship between the iwi and the New Zealand Olympic Committee began in 2004, when the iwi lent the Olympic team a mauri stone to accompany them to the Athens Games. The ceremony in Ōtautahi yesterday also included the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the NZOC and Ngāi Tahu.

“Today’s signing is the formalisation and strengthening of a relationship that has been built over many years, based on mutual values, aspirations, and respect,” Tumahai says.

The pounamu were blessed and presented to Olympics chef de mission Rob Waddell and Paralympics chef de mission Paula Tesoriero, during the ceremony at the rūnanga Ōtautahi office.

“Many of the taonga and traditions of our team have their origins in the long and positive relationship we’ve had with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu," NZOC president Mike Stanley says "We are honoured to receive the pounamu pendants for Tokyo on behalf of 'Te Kapa o Aotearoa' and look forward to an ongoing collaboration.”

The 2020 Olympic Games are due to begin on July 23.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai and NZ Olympic Committee President Mike Stanley. Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu