National Nati news / Reo and Culture / Arts & Entertainment
Written by:
14 Sep 2016

A beautifully illustrated book launched earlier this year which explores the Iwirakau school of carving within Ngati Porou.

Author Ngarino Ellis (Ngati Porou/ Nga Puhi) and photographer Na­talie Robertson (Ngati Porou, Clann Dhònnchaidh) have collaborated to create a taonga which will be val­ued and appreciated for many years to come, by students of Maori art and Ngati Porou who whakapapa to the many marae featured within the publication’s 300 plus pages.

A Whakapapa of Tradition has had two launches – one in April at Waipapa marae at the Univer­sity of Auckland where Ngarino is a senior lecturer in Art History and co-ordinator of the Museums and Cultural Heritage Programme. The other in May at Ohinewaiapu marae in Rangitukia where Ngarino’s grandmother Emere Mountain (nee Kaa) was born.


Both Ngarino and Natalie whakapapa to the Waiapu Valley where the ancestor Iwirakau lived in the 1700s. Iwirakau is credited with reinvigorating whakairo on the East Coast and influencing a carving style continued and evolved by six tohunga whakairo: Hone Ngatoto, Hone Taahu, Hoani Ngatai, Riwai Pakirau, Te Kihirini and Tamati Ngakaho. In turn they influenced and tutored many carvers who fol­lowed. The results of their collective creativity can be seen to this day with the numerous carved meeting houses, churches and dining halls along the Coast.

The publication has been a dedicated labour of love for Ngarino, with its origins stemming from her PhD thesis she began re­searching 17 years ago. A major theme of the book is exploring how communities, art and traditions transform over time. A kaupapa as relevant today, as it was during the time of Iwirakau.


A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngati Porou Carving 1830- 1930 is published by Auckland University Press and the Hardback edition retails for $69.99 at all good bookstores