Joan Bullock Morrell



  • Sculpture


  • Bronze


  • H1650 x W1640 x D1040mm

Joan Bullock Morrell, ‘Tainui’ (1978), Rotokawau Virginia Lake Reserve, Whanganui

Images: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021


A sculpture portraying the grief of Tainui from the kōrero of Tainui and Turere.

'Tainui' was commissioned by the Whanganui Historical Society in 1978 in the memory of Maxwell James Grant Smart, a local historian who held the position of honorary director of the Whanganui Regional Museum from 1951 to 1960. A passionate cataloguer of Māori history, customs and mythology, the legend of Tainui and Turere was chosen as the subject for a sculpture in accordance with his wish that the legend be depicted at the lake.

A bronze book-like plaque is part of the work. It reads:

“The story of Virginia Lake has its beginning far back in the mists of Maori mythology when Turere, the nature lover, dwelt with his tribe at Putikituna Pa on the banks of the Tangarakau river where it joins the Whanganui river. Turere spent long hours in the bush listening to the birds, and with infinite patience he learned their language.

There came a day when Tainui, the beautiful daughter of the chief of Putikituna, heard Turere talking with the birds and she approached him and told him that she also loved them and wanted to learn their language. Tainui was an apt pupil and as summer passed, the young couple realised they were in love.

News of the beauty and accomplishments of Tainui spread far beyond the boundaries of her tribe and reached the ears of Ranginui, a proud and boastful chief from a Pa on the Whanganui river. Ranginui made himself a canoe especially for his visit to Putikituna Pa to ask for Tainui as his wife. But one day, Ranginui heard about Turere and issued a threat against his life. Tainui warned her lover and pleaded with him to flee from the Pa.

Travelling through the bush to the Waitotara river, Turere hurried down toward the coast but the more powerful Ranginui, with hatred in his heart, followed closely behind. Turere at last fell exhausted at the top of this hill and here he was caught and strangled to death by Ranginui.

The Gods were angry at the death of their beloved Turere. Suddenly clouds darkened the sky, the thunder pealed and lightning streaked the heavens. Ranginui was struck down. The rain poured down for several days until a sheet of water covered the bodies of Turere and the boastful Ranginui. Tainui, who had followed in the tracks of her lover, came at last to the edge of the lake where she heard from the birds of the death of Turere. She knelt beside the water and shed her tears of grief for his memory.

In this manner the lake we call Virginia came into being.”​

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