The New Year has brought a new generation of carvers to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) where they will learn the time-honoured tradition at the institute’s Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau (National Wood Carving School) at Te Puia in Rotorua.
The five new first-year ākonga (students) - James Earle, Daytona Waiariki, Pene Panapa, Maharaia Chisnall and Hemi Thompson - were welcomed with a special pōwhiri (welcome ceremony) on January 27 at Te Puia’s Rotowhio Marae. They represent the 42nd intake since the school’s opening 89 years ago.
NZMACI Director, Karl Johnstone, says the wānanga (school) selects up to five students from iwi (tribes) across New Zealand each year after a careful vetting process.
“Applicants are individually assessed based on criteria identified in the school’s application form and carefully selected so that iwi throughout the country are represented.
“We are confident that this year’s successful applicants will uphold the mana (prestige) of their whānau (families), hapū (sub-tribes) and iwi and one day take the skills they have learnt back to their rohe (areas) to ensure the safe-guarding of wharenui (meeting houses) and other carvings.”
During their training, the students will have the opportunity to be involved in restoration projects and other major kaupapa (initiatives) on-site, throughout New Zealand and overseas.
“The schools are a core part of NZMACI’s mandate to perpetuate, protect and promote Māori material culture. Ākonga will be introduced to environments which help them see first-hand how knowledge, history, and ideas are manifested through – in this instance – whakairo rākau (wood carving),” says Mr Johnstone.
The students are now working hard at the wānanga under the expert tuition of Tumu Whakairo (Head of School), Arekātera (Katz) Maihi, who graduated from the school in 2006.
Under Mr Maihi’s tuition, the students will not only learn how to carve, but will also learn about the origin of carving skills and tools, the historical and spiritual significance of customary practices used by tūpuna (ancestors), the techniques and skills required to transmit Māori concepts and kōrero (concepts and narratives) through carving, and to create different Māori taonga (treasures). Distinctive tribal patterns and their purpose and significance, as well as different timber types and their use will also be taught.
Originally legislated in 1926, NZMACI’s mandated cultural interests were combined with tourism at Te Puia in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Valley following the broadening of the Act in 1963. This Act founded the schools of wood carving, weaving, and stone, bone and pounamu (greenstone) carving as national organisations.More on Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau