19 Jun 2024

This content is tagged as Ngā toi Māori .


Hawaiian carvers support Hawaiian Master Carver Sam Ka’ai
Hawaiian carvers support Hawaiian Master Carver Sam Ka’ai (centre).

Some of the best Pacific carvers have established a Te Moana Nui a Kiwa Carving collective to continue the cultural exchange initiated over the past few weeks at FestPAC in Hawaii. The idea emerged from carvers wanting to take the leadership into their own hands and ensure the future was deliberately preserving and advancing traditional carving practices – the indigenous way.

Carvers receiving hongi
Clockwise L-R: Rapanui, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Andre Perez received hongi from carver.   

Nearly 60 carvers from various Pacific Islands have been shaping large wood slabs outside the Bishop Museum in Hawai'i during FestPAC. At the closing ceremony, over 20 carved urungi, or steering paddles, lined the tents, each nearly 4 meters long. Each urungi was presented by its carver with an explanation. 

Despite slight language differences, their unified message was clear, "Together we are stronger, tangata no Te Moana nui a Kea, Pacific people are one."

L-R: Makoare, Beaumyn Wihongi, Shane Poihipi (NZ Delegation) and Aotearoa carver Lionel Grant.  

Carving practitioners from Aotearoa, Hawai’i, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji have agreed to create a new space for Pacific carvers to meet and discuss more regularly to continue strengthening relationships with carvers across the Pacific and find solutions to issues impacting the carving community to move forward. "We want to have a hui with carvers where we uphold our own traditions, not waiting for funders, but taking leadership," said Andre Perez of Hawai’i. The first hui is scheduled for next year in Aotearoa, hosted by Ngāpuhi, marking the beginning of ongoing exchange and growth among Pacific carvers.

Carvers in Hawai'i
Clockwise L-R: Pena Makoare, Rangi Kipa, Beaumyn Wihongi, Pena Makoare works with Shane Poihipi and Beaumyn Wihongi on Te Hono ki Hawai’i. 

FestPAC, held every four years, is crucial for the growth and connection of Pacific arts. Paula Carr, from Creative New Zealand and the Council of Pacific Arts (CPAC) FestPAC Working Group, stresses the importance of the years between festivals. "The carving collective's vision captures everything FestPAC aims for in Pacific arts and culture. FestPAC is a key platform for artists to connect, innovate, and create new paths. This success sets a strong example for other artists in weaving, pūoro, and other art forms."

Carr also notes that Creative New Zealand’s Māori Strategy, Te Hā o ngā Toi Māori, is reaching its 5-year mark. "We want the new direction of Te Hā to be driven by the opportunities FestPAC offers our arts practitioners," she says.

We want the new direction of Te Hā to also be informed by the indigenous exchange opportunities FestPAC offers our artists and cultural practitioners," she says.

Aotearoa carvers Pena Makoare, Rangi Kipa, Beumyn Wihongi, Shane Poihipi, Kawana Waititi and NZMACI carvers Haami Te Aho and Grant Marunui, dedicated a week to crafting an intricate urungi, which was gifted to the people of Hawai’i.

Named Te Hono ki Hawai’i, this urungi connects to the mere pounamu (greenstone) presented to Governor Josh Green at FestPAC's official Opening Ceremony. The mere, called "Nga Tai Hononga a te Moana Nui a Kiwa," symbolises the unifying tides of the great ocean. It is hoped that the mere will accompany Hawai’i to every future FestPAC to honour and remember the connection across the Pacific.

Carvers of Palau
Carvers of Palau.

Sam Ka’ai, one of the last traditional Hawaiian carvers leading a renaissance, acknowledged the collective efforts of the Pacific carvers at FestPAC and hoped for continued collaboration. “We have witnessed the hands of many shaping all this wood. We look forward to your return next time to further shape your dreams. Hawai’i is proud to have hosted this assembly of the best of our Pacific carvers.”

Andre Perez shared the importance of growing a new generation of carvers and teachers. He credited much of the renaissance work to Aotearoa carver Lionel Grant of Te Arawa for his significant contributions to revitalising traditional carving practices, particularly the Kalai Ki’i and Kalai La’au. “We are indebted to Lionel and the Māori people for their aloha in helping us to revive our traditional practice again. The future of Kalai looks promising despite its infancy,” he said.

Looking forward, the carvers wanted to move beyond transactional relationships, aiming to build meaningful connections with their Pacific brothers to support each other’s traditions.