Friday 23 June 2017

Carver’s final touch wakens sleeping god Maui

Until the very last moment, a stunning carving of Māori Maui had no eyes and was therefore lying on the ground ‘sleeping’ before he was installed at the entrance of the brand new, 800sqm classroom building at Arahoe School in West Auckland.

Seeing the figure on the floor with empty eye sockets, school students asked master carver Mitch Hughes why it had no eyes. “He is sleeping,” was the response.
But now he is most definitely awake and wide-eyed. The boldly coloured two-metre high figure (pou) of Maui Pōtiki rising out of the sea stands right inside the front door of the block, a dazzling expression of energy and vitality.
By chiselling out his closed eyes before the recent dawn blessing and inserting paua shell eyeballs, Mitch completed the artwork and roused Maui into life. The kids helped with some of the finishing touches, to involve them in the creative process.
“Some students took the chance to take part in the blessing, and they walked through the building, and in doing so woke it up too,” principal Richard Limbrick says.
“The block went from something under construction to a something complete from that moment.”
The pou is an extraordinary presence for everyone who enters the building, and it took four months to create. Richard says the school board commissioned it because they wanted something to provide inspiration.
The new classroom block, which is about to be opened, is called Te Ara Nui, which means ‘the great path’.
“The carving links back to the mischievousness of Maui, the trickster – in a good way. We want to encourage kids to be movers and shakers, like him.
“It’s part of our approach of empowering children to access the future, and make things happen for themselves, and to carry that approach into the rest of their lives.”
The school has a strong programme based on enhancing mana and the pou is part of that.
“Atua Māori are the Māori gods, and the students at the school are learning who they are, their powers and what their qualities are. By doing so, they can make parallels to their own actions and behaviours as those that enhance mana or diminish it.”
He says the school also encourages students to accept “big, bold challenges”.
A cluster of speedy pedallers in the playground at lunchtime is a good example of that. Dozens of kids are mastering the unicycles provided by the school – 40 in all – including one that has the rider sitting almost two metres above the ground.
Now that’s a bold challenge.