Blablablarchitecture is ‘talking buildings’. Buildings that talk. Prior to European settlement in New Zealand, maori was a spoken unwritten language and the spoken rather than the written word lies at the heart of blablablarchitecture. In cultures with spoken traditions, mythology often transforms into eulogy. Mythology is also highly interpretative, like chinese whispers, as the act of recital posits the speaker as a story teller. In a maori meeting house, the building is a book with the carvings acting as inscriptions. Where words are woven into tukutuku panels. In the meeting house at Tutanekai one such carving denotes the story of Potakawhiti:

A long time ago in Hawiiki, a tohunga (a sacred person) was sleeping in the sun. The tohunga had a boil on his leg which was weeping. Potakatawhiti, a dog, wandered into the village and saw the sleeping tohunga. Potakatawhiti started licking the weeping pus which woke the tohunga and realising that the dog had ‘taken part’ of him, killed, cooked and ate the dog. After some time, the dog’s owner,s brothers Tamatekapua and Whakaturia, noticed Potakawhiti was missing and went searching for the dog. When they called for him could hear the sound of a dog whining. They followed the whining sound and realised the sound was emanating from the tohunga’s stomach. To avenge the death of the dog (as the brothers could not kill the sacred tohunga) they decided to rob the tohunga’s orchard which contained a sacred tree bearing breadfruit (poroporo). At night, using stilts so as to not leave footprints, they stripped the tree. Gleeful of their bounty, the brothers tried again but on the second night they were noticed and chased by the tohunga’s people who became suspicious that poroporo was disappearing. To escape the brothers abandoned their stilts and ran into the sea. Unfortunately Whakaturia was not a good swimmer and was captured whilst Tamatekapua escaped. Whakaturia was taken back to the meeting house and tied him to the top of the poutokomanawa (the centre pole of the meeting house) in readiness to smoke and eat him.

Desperate to help his captured brother, Tamatekapua returned to the village and with some stealth climbed on top of the meeting house. Here he parted the thatched roof to talk to Whakaturia whilst the people below were getting ready for dinner by dancing themselves into a frenzy. After all smoked dinners are a slow cook. Tamatekapua told Whakaturia to deride the hungry hoard below by saying how useless they were at dancing and he could dance much better.  Tamatekapua told Whakaturia that having affronted their ego they will take him down. Once on the ground Whakaturia started the mother of all hakas to save his life, working the dance floor such that he was now dancing besides the door. When Whakaturia fled the meeting house, the two brothers barred the door and set fire to house. (Much like in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds where the Nazi’s are locked in a cinema which is then set alight). The burning of the whare created a battle between two villages and so the brother’s father suggested that the boys build the Te Arawa waka (canoe) and leave the island.


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