Mana and history told by carvings
Something clicked the very first time Arekatera Maihi picked up a carving chisel.
‘‘The sound got me. I realised there was a responsibility not only for my family but for my people too.’’
Maihi, of Ngati Whatua Orakei, had always been artistic and spent a lot of time on the marae growing up. He was taught to carve about 15 years ago by his uncle Manu Tamaariki and then went on to study carving at The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, Te Puia in Rotorua.
He’s designed four tekoteko (figures) for the entrance to Eden Park and carved decorative features onto trumpet resonators for the Town Hall organ.
He’s also completed a tekoteko for the Orakei Rd section of the Hobson Bay Walkway which is expected to open in August.
The physicality is what he likes best about his trade. ‘‘We have to create whatever we’re making with our hands, our eyes, our hearts and our minds. It takes the whole body and spirit,’’ the 39-year-old says.
Maihi is excited to be part of the collective The Sacred Chisels of Tamaki Makaurau, Nga Whaotapu o Tamaki Makurau.
Working collaboratively is unusual for carvers today, he says.
Teams of people once worked together on meeting houses but carvers now tend to work independently on smaller commissions.
The benefit is that you up your game, Maihi says.
‘‘There’s more pressure to perform in terms of trying to do your best because these guys are guns and they’re right next to you.’’ The six members come from different skill sets and the great thing about the process is that everyone contributes to the decision-making, he says.
The carvers are working on different sections of a door lintel which is being commissioned for the foyer of the new Auckland Council building on Albert St. Ngati Whatua design is very distinctive, he says.
‘‘Our commonalities are the curved linear style of the figures, the domeshaped head and the pattern work. We work from narratives that are handed down. It’s a method of maintaining our mana, our stories and our history.’’