Aotearoa Carving

There is a common, striking feature of Maori architecture, objects and decorations.  That is the significant, pronounced bas-relief carvings that can be found adorning the structural elements as well as decorative features in the buildings.  These elaborate carvings can be found on everyday objects as well – there is a great deal of pride evident in these works, and for a culture that did not have a written language before the arrival of the western world, may of these provide a detailed history of the family as well as the culture’s mythology and prehistory.

The structures are incredible – there is so much self, and cultural pride demonstrated in the work.  On the marae (sacred open meeting place), the whare runanga (communal meeting point) is the focus point, and is significantly adorned.

Other structures sometimes get a similar level of attention, such as this kumera store next to the whare runanga at Te Puia, Rotorua.

Other objects, statues, carvings all have a story to tell.

At Te Puia there is a carving school of particular note.  The students are hand picked, and given a strong grounding in traditional carving.

The instructors also hard at work, so it is very much a place of instruction and leading by example.  The chisels tend to be Pfeil it seems.  In the background, in a back room was a more standard workshop, and I was amused to see a Nova lathe there (sadly gathering a bit of dust, as the current lecturers did not know about turning, and none obviously willing to risk trying the machine out).

Some examples of the work produced by the students were scattered around the room, mainly traditional, but perhaps with some modern influence.

There are a number of these sorts of totem pole at the entrance to Te Puia which I assume were made in the school.  Some very interesting, elaborate designs indeed.At the Auckland Museum there is also a huge collection. Interestingly, much of the work being produced at Te Puia would look right at home amongst the museum’s collection, and vise versa.  It is good to see the traditions being preserved for future generations.

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