Carving a future
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.