If These Walls Could Speak

July 21, 2022

Studio Carolina Izzo is honoured to be entrusted with the conservation of the painted mural in Matangireia, the Former Maori Affairs Committee Room, in the houses of Parliament. The mural depicts a wharenui, complete with carvings and a detailed landscape backdrop, and adorns the room alongside a variety of carvings, tukutuku panels, and a larger-than-life reproduction of the Treaty of Waitangi on the opposite wall.

The studio’s mahi is being performed in conjunction by a wider conservation effort by Heritage New Zealand Poutere Taonga to refurbish the room ahead of its 100th anniversary next month.

During the project, it was determined that some of the original mural had been painted over in the past. The surface cleaning of the door (whatitoka) revealed that the black colour could be removed and underneath there appeared to be a different colour visible. Some research and assessment of historic photographs revealed that the whatitoka of the painted wharenui was originally painted to resemble a brown timber door, and for some unknown reason this was painted completely black in subsequent years.

The Mural in the 1950s -Showing the original painted door
The Mural prior to the commencement of treatment
Revealing the original detailing

During the research into the original appearance of the mural in Matangireia, it also became clear how significant this taonga is to tangata whenua.

In the almost 100 years since the foundation of the original Maori Affairs Committee Room, this site has been home to many historic meetings and has been instrumental in upholding the nation’s commitments to the Treaty of Waitangi. The below photos detail some important moments in the history of the room.

On this significant anniversary of this space, it is important to reflect on the past and heritage of this young country. Studio Carolina Izzo is very proud that the country is taking care of such an important taonga.

Kia ora.

The (mostly pakeha) Native Affairs Committee in 1922. Maori were officially termed ‘natives’ until 1949
Dame Whina Cooper in the room in 1976. Whina Cooper was instrumental in securing Maori women’s rights and was a champion for the the returning of maori land.
Matangireia has served as an important place of hui for many different groups within society.
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