Master Carver envisions whakairo wānanga in every iwi

By Taroi Black

Clive Fugill is the longest-serving employee at Te Puia Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua having served 50 years. Te Arawa refers to him as the master carver of our time, so Te Kāea took the time to catch up with him.

Fugill says, “You don't call yourself a master carver, it's not for you to do, it's for someone else to say.”

He has developed these skills for more than 50 years.

“Someone else says it well fine but you’re not going to blow your own trumpet over are you. It's not the thing you do. In my situation I was given that title, they said, ‘we want you to become the master carver.’ I can tell you now i was a bit reluctant to take it on.”

Fugill was one of the first intakes into the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute as it was known in 1967 under the guidance of Hone Taiapa. He eventually adopting the Master Carver role in his 30's and sharing the knowledge to future students of their carving school.

“Te Reo is very relevant if we're going to perpetuate Te Reo Māori, this is a reo in its own right. People don't really understand that and you’re at the traditional form. You have to understand the disciplines of it and what it means.”

He hopes for other iwi to also establish carving schools.

“Hopefully in the future, we can establish schools in the rohe so that our graduates when they finish have somewhere to go back to. So that was the concept in the beginning. They set the act up under an act of parliament in 1963 but that was possibly the idea that never came to fruition so we have a lot of our carvers out there with no work. So they do everything else but carve so we need to get them back to the fold and get it going again.”

Today at 68 he continues to inspire future generations and to complete this carving for Passendale commemorations of 100 years since WW1.