Provincial Growth Fund supports Uenuku carving programme

Published: Dec 12, 2019

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Finding a Waimarino totara for a specific carved pou, a waka mutunga, made Uenuku Charitable Trust Treaty Project Manager Steve Hirini’s day.

Portrait shot of Kura Wanikau

Kura Wanikau (Ngāti Uenuku, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi) is a master carver in wood, stone and bone, tattooist, clay sculptor and two-dimensional artist.

“Before the sawmilling days and the North Island main trunk railway, these magnificent taonga species stood in abundance in the Waimarino area,” Mr Hirini says.

“I was equally as pleased the day we found out we were getting $50,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF)’s skills and employment programme, Te Ara Mahi, for our carving project,” he says.

The carving project will support rangatahi to create a carved pou which will stand in the park and ride area in National Park township as a welcome from tangata whenua to manuhiri, wishing them a good day in the rohe.

“And that’s great - but more importantly, the project will engage Uenuku youth in an educational experience to produce traditional carving and waharoa. It will give them an experience of achievement, a sense of mana and the inspiration to move into employment,” Mr Hirini says.

The funding will mean up to six rangatahi aged 18 years or older have the opportunity to experience carving two mornings per week over two months, working with Uenuku master carver Kura Wanikau-Tahana-Tūroa.

Kura Wanikau (Ngāti Uenuku, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi) is a master carver in wood, stone and bone, tattooist, clay sculptor and two-dimensional artist.

He moved from a series of introductory Auckland based carving modules run for rangatahi in the late 70s, through study with some of New Zealand's greatest master carvers (Dr Pakariki Harrison, Pene Taihapa and John Taihapa) and pākeha historian, linguist and master carver Jock McEwen and was inspired by the work of Paratene Matchitt, Cliff Whiting, John Walsh and Sir Hirini Moko Mead to the exploration of new mediums and techniques.

He said his life’s work in carving began with the modules for rangatahi in Auckland so he is pleased to be leading the Uenuku carving project.

Head of the Provincial Development Unit Robert Pigou is also happy to see the project moving forward.

“Projects like this really bring home the direct benefit PGF investment can make to people’s lives.

“This project links cultural and economic aspirations and gives young people a better chance in life – what could be better?”

The young people working on the carving will learn about the whakapapa and tikanga associated with carving, carving design, tool preparation, moulding, flat chiselling, pattern work, staining and mounting, and will also collaborate on a storyboard for the waka mutunga.

 “The aspirational pou reflects the desire to achieve commercial revitalisation within the Te Korowai o Wainuiārua rohe. The broad aspiration is to re-establish the economic viability of land and resources, sustain commercial development of these resources and ensure strong industry relationships for economic growth,” says Mr Hirini.