This article describes thirty years of effort to preserve, by instruction, the three aspects of Maori Arts and Crafts found in a carved meetinghouse, namely, woodcarving (whakairo), tukutuku panelling, and kowhaiwhai scroll painting.
The Future of Maori Arts
The current attempt to organise instruction work within institutions called Academies of Maori Arts and Crafts, is really part of the movement started by the late Sir Apirana Ngata and other Maori leaders back in 1926.
In that year legislation was passed aimed at encouraging ‘the dissemination of the knowledge of Maori Arts and Crafts.’ The Act provided for a Board through which one or more schools of Maori art would be set up under the control of the Board. The first school was established at Rotorua in 1927, under the directorship of Harold Hamilton, son of Augustus Hamilton author of the book ‘Maori Art’. From the first beginnings the school was linked to carved meetinghouse projects in Northland. East Coast, Taranaki, Waikato and Bay of Plenty. Batches of ten students from selected areas were admitted at regular intervals. The administrative costs were borne by the Government, while Maori monies from the Maori Purposes Fund assisted. Living expenses of student-workers and the timber required for meeting-houses were the responsibility of Maori communities concerned. Works in Museums throughout the country and existing meetinghouses were studied to give the students an idea of the variety of styles of carvings. The students learnt the principles of design, they received practice in the use of the adze and gained experience in shaping the contours of figures for the slabs to which the more intricate decorative features were later to be applied. An attempt was made to get the students to visualize the finished work before and during the construction, and each man devoted his skill and energy to the actual delineation in wood. Lectures were given, museums visited, as part of the process of building up the content knowledge of the art in the student body. However the main method was still the practical one of learning by actually doing carvings for a specific meetinghouse.
Instruction in Maori arts and crafts today is being done in several ways. A few schools—Whakarewarewa Maori and Minginui Maori—have had a record of instruction in the crafts. In Maori communities some of the kuias while engaged in actual work are showing the way to younger people. The Maori Women's Welfare League at their annual exhibitions show craft work that has been done by their members either privately or in classes. At Ngaruawahia under the leadership of Te Ata, King Koroki's wife, the folk are busy with Cloak and Whariki weaving. In carving, graduates of the Rotorua School of Carving while doing professional work for meetinghouses, gather around themselves apprentices that not only assist but also learn the skill. For instance Hone Taiapa has a small group going in the old buildings of the School of Art at Rotorua. They are producing high quality work for Te Heuheu's carved assembly house at Waihi. Tokaanu. Pine his brother has instructed groups working in his own area and also working among the Whanau-a-Apanui and Whakatohea in the Bay of Plenty.
The more formal Academies of Maori Arts and Crafts commenced soon after the establishment of Maori Adult Education classes by the University of New Zealand. A Maori tutor started work in the Auckland Province and it was obvious to him from the start that there was need for specialised programmes in the field of Maori culture. Consultation between the tutor concerned and the late Sir Apirana Ngata set the pattern: not instruction through the schools, as the tutor had originally intended, but teaching within the framework of the meetinghouse project in the maraes. The cautious hesitancy of some authorities in Adult
The carvers at the Auckland Community Centre pay periodic visits to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Carvers of the future particularly in the cities, will need to depend on museums a good deal for it is there that many of the most precious monuments of the Maori cultural heritage are stored. There are also excellent modern carvings in the museums, such as this one by T. Heberley: a pare for the carved house Te Hau ki Turanga, in the Dominion Museum, Wellington. Tom Heberley was formerly employed as a carver in the museum, his main work being the carving of the top sides of two war canoes, one in the Dominion Museum and one in the Canterbury Museum. (NPS Photograph)
The most elaborate academy, after this preliminary experience, was set up among the Ngati Ranginui people of Judea, Tauranga. The motive was the desire of the local community to construct a carved meetinghouse in fulfilment of the dream of many of their kaumatuas, who had I already secured the timber for this purpose from their own bush at Akeake, Tauranga. The Academy comprised three sections-carvers, tuku-tuku workers and kowhaiwhai artists—each section under an elected head. The directors were Mr and Mrs Henare Toka the part-time tutors with Adult Education in Auckland. They visited the
These two men have done much of the carving at the Auckland Arts and Crafts Academy. Both had previous experience of carpentry tools, but learnt carving only when working full-time at the academy under Mr Henare Toka. Left: Mr Mohi Rewiri of Ngatimahurehure, Russell, Right: Mt Paterika Te Hira, of Te Rarawa, Ahipara. (Peter Blanc Photograph)
The only full time institution to date is the Auckland Academy of Maori Arts and Crafts. This was set up in June, 1956. The background was the scheme sponsored by the Maori people
The Auckland Academy of Maori Arts and Crafts is entirely financed by the Maoris of Auckland themselves. The directors are paid a salary and student workers are paid their out-of-pocket expenses. The Academy opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. five days a week. Five permanent students are in attendance for carving, while nearly twenty women from the Leagues and other organisations have taken the tukutuku instruction. The course while being substantially practical (learning by doing) has nevertheless included lectures, visits to meetinghouses and the Museum. W. Poutapu, Ngaruawahia and Pine Taiapa, East Coast, both graduates of the Rotorua School, have given the benefit of their experience to the Academy.
A novel feature of the work at Auckland at present is the wide use made of photographs of carvings. Through the courtesy of the Curator of the Waitangi Treaty House, Mr Lindsay, a set of photographs of the carvings at Waitangi has been made available to the Academy. Under the instruc-
A good example of Maori realistic carving is the head or purata of a northern type of war canoe, now in the Canterbury Museum Christchurch. This, like the carving on page 31, is modern and done by Tom Heberley (NPS Photo)
tion of Mr W. Poutapu, the design is scaled on to the slabs from the photos and the work proceeds with little guidance from the Directors. Further value of the Waitangi photos is the fact that these include samples of the major styles of carving; thus the students are able to work with various schools as students did in the Rotorua School earlier.
Another aspect of the work of the Auckland Academy determined by the cosmopolitan nature of the community for which the proposed meetinghouse is being built is the interest shown by other recognised carvers. Hone Kohu and Tony Tukaokao from the Ranginui institution. Hone Taiapa of the original Rotorua School are themselves doing some of the poupous for the Auckland building. They therefore become extra-mural members of the Auckland Academy.
In evaluating the significance of the academies as current methods of carrying out instruction in Maori arts and crafts in local Maori communities, one is impressed by the insight of the late Sir Apirana Ngata. Back in 1940, Ngata wrote these words. “To one who has watched the development of this scheme (Rotorua School of Maori Art) it would now seem natural that instruction in Maori Arts and Crafts should take the form of a small body of experts to be financed by the communities actually promoting the building of Maori houses of assembly and general marae improvement. The sequence as Maori leaders see it, in meeting the actual needs, is in the first stage, centralization, to create the experts and then decentralization, according to the demands of interested communities. A possible alternative development is suggested by the idea which has now been adopted, of building a workshop at the Auckland museum … Possible students might now be attached for a time to some of the museums where they would have the benefit of ancient models and of the guidance of interested members of the Museum staff. Probably a combination of the two methods, namely, practical work in the Maori communities and special technical training would be the wisest course”.
The Academy scheme centralises the centre of instruction, sets it within local communities desirous of building carved meetinghouses and brings into it expert instructors. The financial burden is shared between the people and the Maori Purposes Fund, with the Adult Education tutor coming in as stimulant and co-ordinator of effort.
The writer feels that Adult Education should accept a more full-hearted part in the Scheme than has been shown to date. At least an expert in Maori Arts and Crafts should be appointed to its permanent staff, in the same way that two arts and crafts tutors serve the Auckland area. The Maori tutor can then service the locally established and administered Academies of Maori Arts and Crafts. If this is not done then the people themselves should be encouraged to run their own academies with assistance from the Maori Purposes Fund paid directly to the bodies concerned.
The wider question of the future of Maori arts and crafts inevitably comes to mind. There is undoubtedly a fairly wide interest among New Zealanders, although when it comes to a matter of finance the interest becomes a little bit weak Contrary to the belief that Ngata held about the inadequacy of the school as a medium for instruction, it does seem to the writer that in addition to the academies mentioned above suitable courses in Maori art may well be incorporated into the general art and craft course in the Secondary schools and perhaps even in elementary form at the upper primary levels. Lessons in the appreciation of Maori design and colour patterns in carving, tukutuku and kowhaiwhai would be interesting and would certainly add variety and lay a foundation for the future use of carving chisels.
The proposed course in Maori studies at the Auckland Teachers College linked with the Auckland Academy of Maori Arts and Crafts on the craft side should go a long way in giving teachers experience in this neglected field. The future effect on the schools would be tremendous. Already at the University there is a course in Maori studies and at least a theoretical acquaintance with Maori art is offered.
The Elam School of Art and its counterpart in other cities should consider a place of Maori Arts and Crafts. The stress there seems to be on the universality of art. At the same time an analytical study of Maori art forms may lead to a better appreciation of aspects of an indigenous art. The schools of architecture too can well bring this subject in, especially when considering primitive structural types of building. The field is full of possibilities to an architect unrestricted by preconceived ideas. Perhaps the best place for the advanced tudy of Maori arts and crafts is in the suggested school of design projected for Auckland. One can visualise students both Maori and pakeha making an intensive study of Maori art and working out ways and means of assisting in the construction of contemporary types of carved meeting house as well as suggesting adaptations of the art for use in private and public buildings.
Probably slowness in the integration of Maori art into New Zealand cultural life is due as much to the absence of a body of Maori specialists organised for propaganda purposes, as to anything else. The academies seem to offer themselves as organisations which may be used for this purpose. The lack however of full time staff and the poverty of financial background prevent the academies from taking on this extra function.
The value of these institutions is found in the fact that they grow out of the needs of local communities and that they belong to the local community. Wise administrators whether in Government departments or in educational organisations such as Adult Education and the Schools would do well to give their support to the Academies of Maori Arts and Crafts.
Tukututu panels for the Auckland meeting house are being made by a group of women of whom Mrs hina Cooper (left) and Mrs Grace Bidois (right) are some of the leading figures. The work proceeds in a room set aside in the Auckland Maori Community Centre where the panels are kept in an ingenious rack enabling work to be done on both sides of several panels. Right: Splitting of the flax. (Photo: Peter Blanc.)