Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau o Aotearoa

The National Wood Carving School

About Te Wānanga Whakairo

"Ehara i a te rākau te whakaaro, kei ā te Tohunga tārai i te rākau te whakaaro - It is a carver, not the wood that has the understanding - If you forget your ancestors, you too are forgotten"

Since the first intake at Te Wānanga Whakairo, many young Māori from iwi (tribes) throughout New Zealand have been taught the Māori practice of wood carving under the expert guidance of master carvers who were once trainees at the school.

In 1967, seven carving apprentices were selected from throughout the country to train under master carver Hone Te Kauru Taiapa – a student of the first Wānanga Whakairo. Part of that 1967 group are present day New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute master carvers, Clive Fugill and James Rickard.

First Day, First Intake 1967

First Intake, First Day - 15 January 1967

The school has been located in Te Whakarewarewa Valley since 16 January 1967, but it was initially established after legislation was passed in 1926 to preserve Māori arts and crafts, under the auspices of prominent Māori politician and lawyer Sir Apirana Ngata <<link to Apirana in legislation section>>. 

Many of the prominent wharenui (meeting houses) throughout New Zealand were carved by the men who were part of the first Wānanga Whakairo intake in 1927. Today’s graduates continue to build and restore wharenui throughout the country. 

Course Information

NZMACI is mandated to train Māori from iwi (tribes) across New Zealand. Applicants for this school must be male, over 18 years of age and of Māori descent.

A maximum of five ākonga (students) are selected each year.  However in 2017 the focus is on transitioning into our new school's precinct and there will be no student intake for 2017.

This tohu (qualification) is for three years and is approximately 40 hours per week, 48 weeks of the year.

Through the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act 1963 (History) the Institute has the ability to award tohu to any person having special training in Māori arts, crafts or culture. The ability to independently recognise and confer qualifications remains a unique attribute of this organisation to this day. 

Study Programme

During their study, the school’s carvers have the opportunity to be involved in major Kaupapa (initiatives)  on-site, throughout New Zealand and overseas. The outcome is two-pronged – it fulfills NZMACI’s cultural perpetuation, protection and promotion mandate and exposes students to environments which help them see first-hand how knowledge, history, and ideas are manifested through material culture. 

NZMACI Mahau Team 2013

NZMACI Mahau Matatini Project Team 2013

Students are taught:

  • The techniques and skills required to transmit Māori concepts and kōrero (narratives) through carving and to create different taonga Māori  (treasures)
  • Materials used in traditional carving as well as practice in drawing and painting
  • How to produce carving for each of the eight known tribal styles
  • How to design and manufacture a Pātuki, TekoTeko and long and short hand weapons
  • About waka functions, spirituality, design and manufacture
  • The historical and spiritual significance of Taonga and manufacture including Taonga puuoro (Māori instruments)
  • The historical and spiritual significance of customary practices used by tūpuna (ancestors)
  • Functions and manufacture of whare
  • How to select logs and the appropriate ceremonies to accompany this selection

Apply

Application forms are available from the NZMACI office at Te Puia from November each year.

View work by NZMACI wood carvers at the Institute’s online Māori art gallery, Āhua