Carv­ing a future

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

REWI Sprag­gon was deeply trou­bled when he dis­cov­ered a mas­ter carver sell­ing his prized tools.

‘‘He was sell­ing his adze at the Avon­dale Mar­ket and giv­ing up the trade be­cause he couldn’t find work. For a carver to sell their chis­els and adzes is like am­pu­tat­ing an arm or a leg.’’

Sprag­gon says the sit­u­a­tion is not iso­lated.

‘‘A lot of our carvers have left New Zealand for work else­where and they’re not carv­ing. It showed me how at risk we are of los­ing our carvers. These guys are the keep­ers of knowl­edge. Who’s go­ing to tell the sto­ries with­out them?

‘‘Are we just go­ing to have mu­se­ums full of arte­facts? What about the present?’’

The 40-year-old de­cided to try and re­vi­talise the tra­di­tional prac­tice by tak­ing a more in­clu­sive ap­proach. He’s set up a multi-tribe group called The Sa­cred Chis­els of Ta­maki Makau­rau, Nga Whao­tapu o Ta­maki Maka­rau.

The col­lab­o­ra­tion is spe­cial be­cause it in­cludes carvers from the five tribal re­gions of Auck­land. The six mem­bers have about 150 years of carv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween them.

They in­clude Sprag­gon, of Te Kaw­erau A Maki de­scent, Arekat­era Maihi of Ngati Whatua, Puhi Thomp­son of Maru­tu­ahu, Sun­nah Thomp­son of Te Waio­hua, Vern Rosieur of Ngati Wai and Wikuki Kingi of Tainui.

The Sa­cred Chis­els formed in early July and are work­ing on their first com­mis­sioned carv­ing; a 4.5 me­tre door lin­tel made out of 600-year-old kauri. The fin­ished piece will be dis­played at the new Auck­land Coun­cil build­ing on Al­bert St.

The public can watch the carvers work on the lin­tel in a live ex­hi­bi­tion. An ad­di­tional six stone carv­ings rep­re­sent­ing the re­gion’s iwi dis­tricts are also be­ing cre­ated. The ex­hi­bi­tion is on every day at Silo Park un­til the end of Au­gust.

The public re­ac­tion has been in­cred­i­ble, the project man­ager says.

‘‘It’s been like an ava- lanche. Peo­ple are just blown away with the story and didn’t re­ally re­alise how at risk carv­ing is. It’s not just passersby who are get­ting a buzz out of it.

‘‘The carvers have got on like a house on fire. A lot of them knew of each oth­ers’ work before but now we’re put­ting faces to carv­ings and we’re telling the same story.’’

The col­lab­o­ra­tion will be the start of many, Sprag­gon says.

‘‘I want us to ac­tu­ally have a brand where peo­ple know it’s au­then­tic, lo­cal and is made the proper way. Peo­ple pay a lit­tle bit more money for that but they’re get­ting the real Mc­Coy. Our vi­sion is to set up a trust so the guys don’t have to worry about com­mis­sions any­more. They can just line this wa­ter­front with beau­ti­ful carv­ings as it was 200 years ago.’’

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz to watch a video where Rewi Sprag­gon ex­plains the carv­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion The Sa­cred Chis­els of Ta­maki Makau­rau.

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