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“I’m a 27th generation artist in my family. I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a part of me, it’s who I am today and what I do.

This hoe is incredibly special to me, it’s probably my most priceless item. It’s called Uira which means thunder. It was carved by my grandfather, Mareikura Brightwell. He made this paddle, which is part of a series of blades. Over a hundred of them were made by my family, but very few of them survived. They were built for a waka that my family had been building for a long time in the 90s, for ten years plus. Sadly that canoe never got to see the water and was destroyed by my own people. This hoe was meant for that canoe. It went missing for a long time. My father found it at an art gallery, took it off the wall and restored it. It’s older than me. It represents our family heritage and who we are.

My grandfather created the blade and then my father carved it. The patterns on the blade are of Taranaki origin and represent thunder and lightning, hence its name Uira. I believe the head piece is of one of our ancestors, Wiremu Kiingi. My father gifted this to me, I took it as a symbol of the beginning of my art career and my step into the world as a full-time artist.

As Māori, we believe everything holds mauri. Everything absorbs the energy, the life force of that which has touched it. So this paddle represents our entire family legacy. My father comes from the old line of carvers, from the revival of Māori art culture in the 70s. My father’s been carving for 50 years now. All that energy was put into this paddle, to be passed down.

My family played a huge part in resurrecting New Zealand’s canoe culture in 1985. So the paddle is also an embodiment of that. We formed the first canoe club, ‘Mareikura’, named after my grandad. It was an instrumental part in reviving an indigenous water sport in New Zealand that had been missing since the mid-1800s.”

What does sentimentality mean to you?

“This hoe’s sentimentality comes from the energy that my father and grandfather have put into it. It holds their life force, my life force and the life force of my other relatives who have touched it. That applies to all objects in the Māori world. Things can absorb good or bad energy, but either way; that’s what we, as Māori believe, brings sentimental value.

Then there’s the whakapapa, the genealogy. If an item in the Māori world links to ancestry, and has the energy of the ancestors, then that’s sentimental to us. For example, the land we tread on. We never see the land as owned, the land is, and is who we are. It’s special to us because our feet and our blood have tread the land. That concept applies to everything in terms of the material, physical and spiritual world of Māori.” – Taupuruariki, Whanganui-a-tara/Wellington (Interview: Chloe Mason) Background image: Taupuruariki’s mural for the Nautilus Creative Collective Space in Ōwhiro Bay. Find her @ariki_arts

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