About the carving




The trickster hero

Pounamu carving by Peter Plumb

This pounamu face plaque carving depicts Maui, a man who came early in the genealogies, at a point where the world and its inhabitants had been formed but human beings still lacked many of the things they needed. Maui shaped the environment further, providing important resources for humans and demonstrating useful skills.

Maui himself is very much a human being, despite his extraordinary powers. He achieves his ends through trickery, very often, and by breaking the rules. Maui performs no feats of arms, concerns himself often with practical, domestic matters, and tends to do things the ‘wrong’, non-prestigious way. 

There is first the remarkable manner of his birth; he is a miscarried foetus that survives and grows in the sea. Having miraculously survived, cared for by the people of the sea, he is finally accepted into his kinship group. Maui himself is the youngest of five brothers–or some say four. 

The face plaque of Maui as a part of this sculpture represents his communion with the gods for the betterment of human beings. He is seen encircled by the whale bone carving depicting the gods. Demonstrating the connection and balance between man and the supernatural or the realm of the gods as well as the interconnectedness of all things. 

This face plaque of Maui is carved from te pounamu kahotea or aotea -– dark green with black markings, not spots. This particular stone came from the South Westland jade field in the South Island of New Zealand.

The patterns of the facial moko of this carving represent Maui’s in his ancestry, lineage and the world. The first section called ngakaipikirau (rank) comprises the two triangular areas either side of the centre line on the forehead. Here the design used is “Moko Kuri” which consists of sets of three short lines successively, each set at right angles to its neighbor, a very ancient tattoo pattern. This depicts Maui’s place in the early genealogies. The second section called ngunga (position), comprises the triangular areas at either side of the forehead above the eyebrows and either side of the ngakaipikirau. These symmetrical-appearing rays indicate the position in life by the number of rays. The rays (tiwhana) above the eyebrows indicate a descendent of the first line or a descendent of the second line. These rays are comprised of 4 lines depicting rank. The third section, uirere, is either side of the nose to the edge of the eyes down to a line equal to the point of the nose. Here Maui has a spiral carved on either side of the nose tip. These are a sign of hereditary or achieved rank and here represent the rank Maui achieved through his exploits to bring benefits to the humans of the world from the realm of the gods. 

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