A new memorial honouring the role of New Zealand Māori and other service people in the First World War will be unveiled in the Passchendaele Memorial Park, next to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Zonnebeke on Anzac Day, 25 April 2019.

The pou maumahara (memorial carving) was created from 4,500-year-old native New Zealand timber by master carvers, tutors and students from the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) in Rotorua, New Zealand. Please see imagery of the carving here: https://bit.ly/2FSsF6r (external link) (images), https://vimeo.com/125096123 (external link) (video).

NZMACI board member David Tapsell says the pou maumahara is named “Pōhutukawa” after a native New Zealand tree that symbolises new beginnings.

“Pōhutukawa trees welcomed the tūpuna (ancestors) of New Zealand Māori people when they first arrived in the country, as well as being the tree that spiritually farewells our loved ones.”

The red pōhutukawa flower is also often compared to the poppy at Passchendaele when it blooms.

“The carving has two sides representing Tūmatauenga (war) and Rongomaraeroa (peace), acknowledging those who sailed vast distances to take part in the war, as well as those who remained in New Zealand,” says Mr Tapsell.

“The memorial carving celebrates the memory of our ancestors, expressed through our nation’s greatest carvers. NZMACI is proud to have produced this magnificent work and to gift it to the community of
Zonnebeke.”

The memorial weighs just over six tonnes and stands eight metres tall.

New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium Gregory Andrews says the unveiling of the pou maumahara carving is a fitting way to conclude New Zealand’s centenary commemorations in Belgium.

“The story the pou maumahara tells is part of New Zealand’s shared history with Belgium – and the reason so many of our people travel here every year to honour the memory of those who fought in the First World War.

“This is also the first time the role of Māori in the First World War has been recognised in this way in Europe.”

Mayor of Zonnebeke Dirk Sioen says the installation of the pou maumahara in Zonnebeke, next to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, is a symbol for our community of the long-lasting bond with New Zealand.

“It is of uttermost importance to tell and spread our common history to the many visitors of the former battlefields of Passchendaele,” he says.

The memorial carving will be unveiled at a special ceremony at Passchendaele Memorial Park following Australia and New Zealand’s annual Anzac Day dawn service. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Representatives from NZMACI, including one of the Institute’s master carvers, will also be holding workshops within the community highlighting Māori culture to support interaction between cultures in the weeks before Anzac Day.