As I walk through the Bolton Street cemetery, the daffs are in full bloom, the white marble statue commemorating Harry Holland gleams and the traffic on the motorway crawls and rumbles along as usual, bisecting the resting places of Wellington’s earliest settlers. (Would Harry Holland have approved of his memorial, I wonder.)

The cemetery is a museum of sorts. Like museum exhibits, each grave is an artefact and has a tale to tell of the early history of Wellington and of New Zealand.

There’s Hori Tamati Pipi’s headstone. Hori was a resident of the Te Aro pā. He had no childen so, when he died, he left his land interests in Wellington to his friend Tamati Wirimu Te Wera, with whom he had signed various leases in the past, ‘on the condition that Tamati Te Wera provide for his sister’s son’.

Nā ana hoa tēnei kōwhatu i whakatū i konei

His friends have erected this headstone here

hei whakamaharatanga mōna, mō Wiremu Tamati Te Wera

in remembrance of him.

Professor Jeanette King notes though, ‘now here’s where it gets confusing as it looks like that word is , so this reads “of Wiremu Tamati Te Wera” (i.e. a memorial for Wiremu as well as Hori, above) but I think this likely is an error and that Wiremu Te Wera was one of those who erected the memorial’. In any case Wiremu Tamati Te Wera is buried in the Karori cemetery.

Many people walk past the headstone of Hori Tamati Pipi every day.A little piece of Wellington’s early history revealed by a single artefact.

Friends of Te Papa can see more of these artefacts in a variety of sites outside of Te Papa in the open-air museum which we call home during Wellington’s heritage week. (26 Oct – 1 Nov.).

We are fortunate that, as Friends, inside Te Papa we can not only see the displays of artefacts in the collections but can have expert explanations of what lies behind these items. So I do invite you to make the most of your membership by attending any event that takes your fancy and trying some that you might at first not think of interest to you. Looking again reveals the tales behind things we might take for granted.

Ngā mihi

Koenraad Kuiper