Three significant pou whakairo represent Te Arawa style of carving

By Regan Paranihi

Three significant pou whakairo have been set up at the front entrance of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute’s new Wānanga Precinct located at Te Puia in Rotorua.

The three pou are carved from the tōtara tree with each recognising the unique Te Arawa style of carving.

According to Arekatera Maihi, NZMACI tumu whakairo (head of school), this is the first time all three carving styles from the three prominent Te Arawa tribes Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Tarāwhai and Ngāti Pikiao have been officially acknowledged in the one setting.

She says, “We believe these are the biggest carved pou in the country and we’re proud to see them gracing the entrance to our new wānanga and welcoming manuhiri into the heart of what we do.”

NZMACI tohunga whakairo (master carver), Clive Fugill explains the smallest pou follows the famous designs of Pūkākī who was a caver and ancestor of Ngāti Whakaue.

The second pou represents the Ngāti Pikiao style with similarities to that of Ngāti Whakaue, but it offers a contrast in surface design with deep pākati (notches). 

The third and largest pou represents the carving style from Ngāti Tarāwhai, which incorporates haehae, or grooves, that is much wider and bolder with the pākati being smaller.

The Wānanga Precinct Is just one of the many new site developments underway for Te Puia which will see the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving and bronze foundry occupy the new site, leaving the old building to be reconstructed into a gallery, tā moko studio and administration space.

The entire Wānanga Precinct will officially open in April 2018, however, manuhiri (visitors) will be able to watch the cavers in their new environment from mid-January.