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What can you see in the Tukutuku panel designs created by artists Francine Spencer and Roselyn Fauth, inspired by Mahika Kai in the whare at the Caroline Bay Playground?


20231207 CPlay Whare tukutuku panels byFrancineSpencerandRoselynFauth RF 091031

Tukutuku panels was used to adorn the inside walls of whare (meeting house) at the Caroline Bay playground, designed by artists Francine Spencer and Roselyn Fauth using modern art techniques used to tell traditional stories. Photo Roselyn Fauth.  The project sought guidance from Mana Whenua, Arowhenua, with Francine Spencer, a representative from Mana Whenua, joining the volunteers as a cultural advisor and an artist. It is important to not reproduce this art without permission. Respecting indigenous art is paramount, as it carries the mana (spiritual power and authority) of its creators and communities. Seeking permission for reproduction is essential to honor and uphold the cultural significance of the artwork. 

Tukutuku panels are used to decorate wharenui (Māori meeting houses). The design which vary from iwi to iwi helps share stories. Traditionally, the tukutuku panels are made by weaving, plaiting and twining together strips of various materials, such as harakeke flax or other native plants, into intricate geometric patterns triangles, diamonds, diagonal bars and stepped patterns in black, red and white. Tukutuku panels serve both decorative and symbolic purposes, often conveying important cultural or historical meanings specific to the tribe or community they belong to. They are typically placed on the walls inside the whare and contribute to the overall aesthetic and spiritual and cultural atmosphere of the space. For the whare, artists Francine Spencer and Roselyn Fauth colaborated to share the stories and values of the playground.  This community project was proudly sponsored by CPlay, with the designs gifted by the artists. 

See if you can find some of the elements in CPlay's whare Tukutuku panels.

  • Kōwhaiwhai are stylized patterns often seen on the rafters of Māori meeting houses. Tukutuku panels may incorporate similar geometric motifs often curved and flowing shapes inspired by nature, plants, animals, though they are usually woven rather than painted.
  • Poutama (stairway to knowledge) symbolize the pursuit of knowledge, education, progress, and personal growth. They consist of diagonal lines that represent the steps or stages one takes on their journey of learning and enlightenment. CPlay has included a heart at the centre representing love for our each other, to help each other grow.
  • Geometric shapes such as triangles, diamonds, squares, and chevrons, arranged in symmetrical or asymmetrical patterns.
  • Koru spiral shape derived from the unfurling fern frond of the native New Zealand silver fern plant. It symbolizes new life, growth, strength, and peace. The spiral form represents the unfolding of new life or new beginnings. In tukutuku panels, koru shapes are often incorporated into the weaving patterns, representing continuity, regeneration, and the interconnectedness of all living things.
  • Whakapapa (genealogy), tipuna, (ancestors) are often represented through oral traditions that recount their names, stories, and deeds, tracing familial lines back through generations. In Cplay's Panels, they are represented by the triangles, a nod to ancestors who in creation stories turned into the mountains around us, such as Aoraki Mt Cook.
  • Star clusters in the panels link to creation stories.
  • Tuna (eel) is the guardian of the playground.
  • The last of the five panels is un finished on purpose, symbolic of the story still continuing.

These panels help to preserve the memories, values, and wisdom of the ancestors, passing them down to future generations.


  • What do you like about it?
  • Do you recognise any of the stories or people represented here?
  • What do you think the colours represent?
  • Can you find any repeating patterns or sequences? What shapes have been used? Are they two-dimensional or three-dimensional?


Here are some links to Te Papa that you may find interesting



Why CPlay incorporated the Tukuktuku panels in the playground?

The integration of cultural narratives into the playground design was to inspire imaginative play, include cultural history and stories of the area to, make the playground fun, inspire imaginative play and foster understanding and help children and their families connect to art, culture and stories. Roselyn Fauth, CPlay Volunteer said, "We learned through our community consultation, that knowing where we come from, plays an important role in knowing who we are, and helps us form a strong sense of identity and belonging. Sharing local stories and history became a corner stone goal for our playground approach and design." This collaboration was a careful and thoughtful effort to understand and respect the original cultural context and significance before incorporating cultural design, history and story at the playground. As visitors engage with the rock art at Caroline Bay Playground, they can connect to the past through Māori creation stories, connecting with the land, art, and its cultural heritage. Through initiatives like this, the legacy of ancient traditions is celebrated and discussed by generations to follow.

Fauth said "Perhaps people might be inspired to learn more, visit the Te Ana Rock Art Centre, the South Canterbury Museum, and the rock art sites themselves to learn more and connect to the areas people, place and past."


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Tukutuku Panels by Francine Spencer and Roselyn Fauth -Not to be reproduced without permission

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20231027 Artists CPlayVolunteers Roselyn Francine Create Tukutuku inspireation 163710

Artists and CPlay volunteers Roselyn Fauth and Francine Spencer plan Tuku Tuku patterns for the whare. 

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CPlay members Roselyn Fauth and Francine Spencer visit Te Ana Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Centre to look for inspiration on how to share Timaru's Caroline Bay story at the Playground.  - Photo Roselyn Fauth


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Artwork by Francine Spencer depicts some of the species you can find in and around the Caroline Bay area.  Photo Roselyn Fauth with daughters Annabelle (5) and Medinella (9)

Sharing our stories and journey Francine Spencer is interviewed by the Creo marketing teamjpg

Sharing our stories and journey - Francine Spencer is interviewed by the Creo marketing team. - Photo Roselyn Fauth

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The whare design process included consultation and collaboration with CPlay volunteer and Arowhenua representative, Francine Spencer.

cplay whare design gifted by Rushton Archtects 5

Whare design gifted by CPlay volunteer and architect John Rushton 

Noticed damage, graffiti, rubbish etc?  Please contact Timaru District Coucil via their "Snap, Send, Solve" app or form: timaru.govt.nz/fix-it

For urgent attention phone Customer Services 03 687 7200.

You can still reach our volunteers via email, just keep in mind we are not actively monitoring our messages, so thank you for your patience if we take some time to respond. info@cplay.co.nz

1 Virtue Ave, Caroline Bay, Timaru
(Off SH 1, Evans St).

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