There’s more to the ancient art of whakairo than carving beautiful art pieces from wood, says Chris Daymond.
Chris (Ngā Ruahine, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Mutunga ki Wharekauri) a former soldier and now a police officer recently completed his Kāwai Raupapa – Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Art in Whakairo at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Palmerston North.
Tauira (students) on the 38-week programme are guided through practical projects while learning the hands-on processes the art requires from experienced carvers.
They learn the techniques, history and tikanga associated with whakairo.
Chris says learning whakairo has given him a greater understanding of the knowledge his tupuna (ancestors) used in telling stories.
“I’m enjoying learning the knowledge they had that was on the brink of being lost.”
“I’m doing this to keep these things alive with the taonga I can create.”
During his study, Chris first learned the intricate patterns that form the foundation of whakairo design. His study has seen him craft kōwhaiwhai panels, wheku, pou and tekoteko.
He’s also carved Māori weaponry, including taiaha, patu and koteate.
Chris says he found beauty in the art form was that every aspect has a deeper meaning and understanding.
“And through whakairo, you’re able to represent that in stories.”
“For me, I found that learning to carve the patterns was about a quarter of the course. The rest of it is about understanding the belief systems in whakaaro Māori and how to represent what I wanted using those patterns.”
Chris, who grew up in Pahiatua, says his whakairo journey came about through learning te reo Māori.
He’d been studying the language with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Papaiōea and had completed the Level 5 Te Hapūtanga o te Reo but couldn’t commit to the two nights each week required for the Level 6 Aupikitanga classes.
Chris is still involved in whakairo. He has plans to complete a degree in reo Māori and to continue his mahi in whakairo in the coming years. He says his involvement in both has benefitted both his work and community endeavours with Tama Tu Tama Ora marae and Te Kōhanga Reo o Whakawhaiti.
“I’ve found my joining Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has been helpful for me with my mahi because I’m promoting te reo Māori in the workplace, and I use it when I’m communicating with people. It’s given me more of a drive to work with Māori communities and their outcomes.”
“I’ve been able to use it for mihi whakatau in the workplace, and I encourage my kids to learn it and speak it as much as possible. I also convinced my wife to learn. She did Te Putaketanga a couple of years ago. It’s now a part of my everyday life.”