Tangaroa is a deity described in Māori traditions as the kaitiaki (guardian) of all oceans and waters. He is one of the children of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother), from whom life originates. Among various accounts throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific, Tangaroa is identified as the father of sea creatures. In some traditions, the sea is thought to be where all life originated. In traditional carvings, Māori ancestors can resemble amphibians - animals that can live on both land and water - with snake-like bodies and large heads.
The pūhoro motif that surrounds Tangaroa makes reference to his ability to control the tides and waves, as well as his strength and power as guardian of the seas and waterways. The pūhoro design traditionally refers to speed and agility, depicting the cutting or rippling effect of the water or waves when a waka (canoe) travels. The pūhoro design is often used to adorn the prows of waka. The sea creatures within the design represent the many stories, traditions and lineage of Tangaroa, including the tohora or whale. Whales are viewed as the guardians of navigators. According to Māori oral tradition, whales guided canoes to New Zealand, and the ancestor Paikea is said to have arrived riding a whale.
The set is issued by NZ Post, the official issuer of New Zealand stamps and commemorative coins; the coins themselves were struck by BH Mayer’s Kunstprägeanstalt GmbH.