Maori carving unveiled at Gardens by the Bay to symbolise New Zealand-Singapore friendship

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveils the Maori kuwaha carving at Gardens By The Bay's Cloud Forest. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
The carving was unveiled by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah (left) and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - At the entrance of the Gardens by the Bay's Cloud Forest, amid the lush greenery of plants native to New Zealand, a symbolic doorway greets visitors.

The new Maori kuwaha carving, named Tane Te Waiora, represents the strong friendship between Singapore and New Zealand, and was unveiled by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah on Tuesday (April 19).

Comprising three pieces made of totara wood from the Pureora Forest in the central North Island, the sculpture is crafted from a tree that is estimated to be over 2,500 years old, which fell naturally in the forest during a severe storm.

The carving depicts Tane, the personification of the sun, and Hina, the personification of the moon, reinforcing the importance of light in Maori culture.

"It is a metaphor for our reconnection with Singapore, demonstrating our intention to strengthen the 'doorway' between New Zealand and Singapore, and the rest of the world," Ms Ardern said of the carving.

"The presence on the kuwaha of Hina, represented by the moon, and Tane, represented by the crops, are also significant as they symbolise a relationship of trust and reciprocity - defining features of New Zealand's relationship with Singapore."

Gardens by the Bay CEO Felix Loh said: "Maori art and culture has deep significance in New Zealand's cultural history... We are grateful for this precious gift to be placed permanently at the entrance of Cloud Forest as a lasting symbol of the close friendship between our two countries."

Ms Ardern, who arrived on Monday for a three-day visit, also had a new orchid hybrid named in her honour at the Istana earlier on Tuesday.

The Dendrobium Jacinda Ardern, a hybrid of Dendrobium Lim Wen Gin and Dendrobium Takashimaya, produces flowers with white petals and sepals with a flush of orchid purple towards the tips.

New Zealand is opening its borders to international travellers from May 2.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Rene de Monchy is excited about the prospect of reopened borders. "It's a perfect opportunity to tour around and engage with the culture and the nature. There's lots of variety in activity," he said.

Some newly-introduced activities include the Te Puia, Geysers by Night, where visitors will be guided on a 3km course that ends at the picturesque Pohutu Geyser. There is Wildwire Wanaka, where thrill-seekers can abseil down Twin Falls, while those who prefer tamer activities embark on the Wild Walk Adventure Trail.

Though travelling may be "complicated" due to mandatory testing and paperwork, Mr de Monchy feels that people "have a deep-rooted desire to travel".

He added that now is the perfect time to vacation for Singaporeans who want to escape the heat, as it is autumn in New Zealand. "I certainly hope that Singaporeans will look at our blue skies and green fields and feel refreshed," he said.

The new orchid hybrid, Dendrobium Jacinda Ardern, named in her honour at the Istana on April 19, 2022. PHOTO: LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK

Ms Ardern also spoke at a gala dinner attended by Singapore entrepreneurs and business leaders, where she reiterated New Zealand's interest in collaborating on opportunities in Singapore and South-East Asia.

"The reopening of borders is an important first step in rebuilding our people-to-people links that will lay the foundation for our future cooperation.

"We look forward to warmly welcoming our Singaporean friends to New Zealand," she said.

"In turn, I am also pleased New Zealand visitors can now enjoy the sights and sounds of Singapore."

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