Tino Rangatiratanga, undeniably recognisable - but what does it mean?

Most Kiwi’s recognise Tino Rangatiratanga as being the ‘Māori flag’, but there is probably very little understanding of what each of the elements of the design mean.

Often it is referred to as meaning ‘absolute sovereignty’ – tino = absolute, rangatiratanga = kingdom, realm, sovereignty, principality, self determination, self management.

It goes deeper than that though. Each of the elements of Tino Rangatiratanga symbolise something. But what? Let’s have a look.

Te Kawariki’s account of its activities, 20 Years of Protest Action 1979-1999, Te Kawariki explains the  elements of the flag to be as follows:

Black – represents Te Korekore, the realm of potential being. It represents the long darkness from whence the world emerged. It represents the heavens. The male element is formless, floating and passive. 

White – represents Te Ao Marama, the realm of being and light. It is the physical world. White also symbolises purity, harmony, enlightenment, and balance. 

Koru – the curling frond shape of the koru represents the unfolding of new life. It represents the rebirth and continuity, and offers the promise of renewal and hope for the future.

Red – represents Te Whei Ao, the realm of coming in to Being. It symbolises the female element, it is also active, flashing, southern, falling, emergence, forest, land and gestation. Red is Papatūānuku, the earth mother, the sustainer of all living things. Red is the colour of the earth from which the first human was made. 

The design represents the balance of natural forces with each other To live life is to live with nature. To appreciate life is to understand nature. 

Learning about the meaning behind this sometimes controversial design brings about a new appreciation for what it stands for.  As a pākehā, recreating these symbols in a quilled medium, all the while researching and reading to understand the design and its cultural importance, is a very special process that I hope to be able to continue with future pieces. 

A special piece of your own is but a click away! If you’re keen on a McQuilled custom piece, then just click here. Give me a few bits of info and I can come up with a plan with you!

Tino Rangatiratanga