Heritage, Culture & Arts

Marlborough’s rich history runs wide and deep, from the earliest Polynesian settlers of the Wairau Bar to the first European pioneers who built our towns and planted our first grapevines.

These people, the way they lived their lives and how they dealt with history’s major events has shaped Marlborough into what it is today. Those stories are all here, waiting to be discovered all over again.

Marlborough has a wealth of arts and culture, from art galleries to museums through to concerts and theatre productions.

Follow the Marlborough Arts and Crafts Trail, enjoy a glass of wine while listening to live music at a vineyard or on stage at Marlborough's new ASB Theatre.

Kupe & The Octopus

A carved pou (marker post) at Karaka Point, near Picton, depicts the story of how Maori navigator Kupe overcame a giant octopus, Te Wheke-o-Muturangi.

The legend begins in Hawaiki where a tohunga (priest) named Muturangi was banished by villagers to a lonely side of their island. There, he found a wheke (octopus) and became its master, sending it out to catch fish for him to eat: Soon, he sent it to the village to take fish from their nets as revenge.

The villagers, with their empty and damaged nets, sought help from Maori warrior Kupe, who took his waka (canoe) to the fishing grounds to see why the fish were disappearing. There, he found Muturangi’s wheke. Kupe hit it with his taiaha (long club) and battled violently with Te Wheke’s eight arms.

The fighting pair moved across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) until they reached Te Wheke o Te Tau Ihu, the northern South Island. The battle gouged out the land, causing sea to flow in, creating the Marlborough Sounds. Te Wheke’s arms churned boulders up in a long line, creating Nelson’s Boulder Bank.

When Kupe killed Te Wheke, he split him in two. One of the octopuses eyes landed next to Arapawa Island, and was said to have formed the islands now known as The Brothers.

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