Master carver’s work symbolises shared heritage

2 December 2016

Master carver’s work symbolises shared heritage

NorthTec carving tutor, Te Kuiti Stewart, is heading off today for the unveiling of a huge pou maumahara (pillar of remembrance) which he has created for the Waikato town of Kawhia.

His Royal Highness Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia, the Māori King, has been invited to unveil the intricately-carved pou, which stands almost five metres tall with a diameter of three metres.

Te Kuiti Stewart is a master carver and teaches whakairo (carving) to students on NorthTec’s Bachelor of Māori Arts – Maunga Kura Toi programme. A group of 12 students from the programme, including his whakairo students, will travel with him to Kawhia for the dawn ceremony on Sunday (4 December).

The pou symbolises the linked heritage between the town’s Māori and European cultures throughout history, with one side reflecting the past, present and future of local iwi, while the other represents the ship which brought the first Europeans to Kawhia Harbour in 1824.

It is carved from a giant, ancient totara log from Pureora Forest, and stands in a reserve near Kawhia Museum, where it will be floodlit at night. The project has been driven by the Kawhia Community Projects Trust Inc.

Te Kuiti has spent more than two years on the project, and has made monthly journeys from Whangarei to Kawhia to work on the pou. He says it will be his last major piece due to the toll the work takes on the body, and now plans to devote his efforts to passing on the traditional skill of whakairo through his teaching work.

At the unveiling, he will be asked to describe the ‘journey’ he has been on since starting work on the huge totara log, which has been split in half, hollowed out and then reconnected to form a koauau (Māori flute) shape. His research for the design contributed to his master’s degree in Applied Indigenous Knowledge on “The Semiotics of Maori Carving”.

The unique artwork weighs more than 2.5 tonnes and will sit on a reinforced concrete base, with tiles painted by local schoolchildren laid around it.

Te Kuiti said he was looking forward to the unveiling which marks the completion of the major project. It had been a true community effort, he said, with local businesses in the Kawhia area contributing funds, time and materials. Funding was also made available by Creative New Zealand.