According to the Sainsbury Centre catalogue, these figures may “represent deified ancestors” and that they date to the period prior to missionary activity.” The catalogue also details how this is not a complete figure as “it has been emasculated and the feet are damaged at the front and back”. The hair is also missing from the statue.
As well as learning about Maori art form from this image I also came across the term “tutelary God” which I had not come across before. According to Collins dictionary tutelary means “invested with the role of guardian or protector”.
My notes are here Maori figure