Ngati Porou carving honoured

A Whakapapa of Tradition

A Whakapapa of Tradition: A book that examines the rapid evolution of Maori carving from 1830 to 1930 has won Auckland University senior lecturer in art history Ngarino Ellis the Te Mahi Toi, art category, award at the Nga Kupu Ora Awards for Maori books and journalism.

A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngati Porou Carving, 1830-1930, with new photography by Natalie Robertson, came out of Ellis’s research for her 2012 PhD into the Iwirakau carving school, which was based in the Waiapu Valley on the East Coast.

“Beginning around 1830, three dominant art traditions — war canoes, decorated store houses and chiefly houses — declined and were replaced by whare karakia (churches), whare whakairo (decorated meeting houses) and wharekai (dining halls),” says Ellis.

In her book, the art historian examines how and why that transformation took place by exploring the Iwirakau school of carving, which is credited with reinvigorating carving on the East Coast. The six major carvers of this school went on to create more than thirty important meeting houses and other structures.

This book is a study of Ngati Porou carving and an attempt to make sense of Maori art history. What makes a tradition in Maori art? Ellis asks. How do traditions begin? Who decides this? And how and why do traditions cease?

Ellis is also a founding trustee of the Art Crime Research Trust and runs a class on art crime. She is particularly interested in looting and theft in New Zealand.

A Whakapapa of Tradition: A book that examines the rapid evolution of Maori carving from 1830 to 1930 has won Auckland University senior lecturer in art history Ngarino Ellis the Te Mahi Toi, art category, award at the Nga Kupu Ora Awards for Maori books and journalism.

A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngati Porou Carving, 1830-1930, with new photography by Natalie Robertson, came out of Ellis’s research for her 2012 PhD into the Iwirakau carving school, which was based in the Waiapu Valley on the East Coast.

“Beginning around 1830, three dominant art traditions — war canoes, decorated store houses and chiefly houses — declined and were replaced by whare karakia (churches), whare whakairo (decorated meeting houses) and wharekai (dining halls),” says Ellis.

In her book, the art historian examines how and why that transformation took place by exploring the Iwirakau school of carving, which is credited with reinvigorating carving on the East Coast. The six major carvers of this school went on to create more than thirty important meeting houses and other structures.

This book is a study of Ngati Porou carving and an attempt to make sense of Maori art history. What makes a tradition in Maori art? Ellis asks. How do traditions begin? Who decides this? And how and why do traditions cease?

Ellis is also a founding trustee of the Art Crime Research Trust and runs a class on art crime. She is particularly interested in looting and theft in New Zealand.

A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngati Porou Carving, 1830-1930, by Ngarino Ellis, Auckland University Press, $69.99.

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