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Aotearoa's largest carving takes shape at NZMACI

Aotearoa's largest carving takes shape at NZMACI

Visitors to Rotorua’s New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) at Te Puia this summer will have the opportunity to see history in the making – the creation of what will be New Zealand’s largest ever Māori carving – a mahau or façade which will form the stage frontage for Te Matatini (the national kapa haka festival) which is being hosted by Te Arawa in Rotorua next February.

About 20 carvers – the entire NZMACI carving school, including students and tutors – are involved in creating the mahau onsite at Te Puia in Rotorua. The wood that is being used for the mahau is all native timber, and includes a huge kauri tree carbon-dated at 4,500 years old.

The mahau is taking shape both inside the carving school, as well as outside under a canopy where the largest pieces are being carved. Visitors are able to watch up close as the carvers go about their work, creating this structure which represents all rohe (districts) in New Zealand.

When it is finished, the mahau will have a 30 metre paepae (base), seven metre amoamo (side carvings) and each maihi (barge board) will be about 22 metres long. The mahau will continue to be used for future Te Matatini events.

Te Puia | NZMACI Chief Executive, Tim Cossar, says the carving offers a unique opportunity for Rotorua residents, as well as wider New Zealand and international visitors, to witness an extraordinary artwork take shape and make history as the largest ever.

“The mahau is already looking incredible – it will be even more so as it progresses.

“This will be an important part of our country’s history and we want to share this with New Zealanders. It’s also a good opportunity for our people to share their skill, talent and heritage, and to demonstrate some of the important work that is done here,” says Mr Cossar.

“It is also quite a spectacle for visitors to Te Puia, who watch with awe as our carvers work. It is the scope, size and the history making nature of this project that makes it a very special opportunity for our visitors to witness,” he says.

NZMACI director Karl Johnstone says the mahau demonstrates the skill and expertise of the national carving school and represents the legacy of the school, which was first legislated in 1926 under the auspices of Sir Apirana Ngata.

“NZMACI is a Te Matatini partner and the mahau is a way to connect Māori material culture and performing arts. The visible aspect of how we collectively present our art forms is important, but the less tangible elements including the korero and values that underpin them, is what is most important,” he says.

Te Matatini is just one of a number of projects supported by NZMACI, another being Waka Tapu, a 10,000 nautical mile open-ocean voyage (currently underway) in traditional double-hulled waka. The first major phase of the voyage – a symbolic closing of the Polynesian Triangle – ended when the crews were officially welcomed in Rapanui (Easter Island) on 6 December. The waka are due to head back to New Zealand after the cyclone season, in approximately March.

Meanwhile, NZMACI has also recently launched a range of traditionally-inspired food products, which are being sold in supermarkets and speciality stores under “The Storehouse” brand. The range includes vinaigrettes, a table seasoning, an aioli and a mutton bird pate, all of which reflect the flavours of New Zealand’s indigenous environment, including kawakawa, karengo, horopito and titoki.

“These projects are all part of our contribution to ensure our culture, traditions and art forms live on in modern Aotearoa,” Mr Johnstone says.

The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute was established in 1963 by an Act of Parliament to perpetuate and protect Māori art, crafts and culture. Under that legislation, Te Puia’s function is about much more than a visitor experience and includes investment via admission revenues into the sustainability of the geothermal environment, and into NZMACI for the protection and perpetuation of Māori culture.

Te Puia is located in Rotorua and is home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and the world-famous Pohutu Geyser, along with bubbling mud pools, cultural performances, a kiwi house, Māori cuisine and guided tours through Te Whakarewarewa geothermal valley.


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