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Maori Carvings


The Maori are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand and are famed for among many aspects of their culture; their carvings. Maori carvings have been a big component of their culture and way of life. Carvings were a way of expressing themselves and to the Maori culture; they were expressing the gods in material form in the carvings. This preordained that all the carving and other art forms were in possession of spiritual power which was locally referred to as mana. Thus the skill itself was considered sacred and from the sea god called Tangaroa. This carving skill was passed down from generation to the next and the whole learning process was by apprentice whereby the novice was taken in by a traditional expert known as tohunga and will over the course of time hone his talents but most important learn the traditional and religious culture and beliefs of the Maori.

The most rudimental Maori carvings were the fishing hooks and were made from bone. They have used a variety of material to make the carvings and they include green stone to make human figures forms and figures called hei-tiki, wood to make war canoes with different intricate carvings/engravings, flutes, posts, wall panels and treasure boxes. Bone was also in common use and it could either be whale bone or cow bone. These were used to make jewelry that had symbolic value and flutes. Shells were used for carvings for personal ornamentation and the various figures and patterns portrayed had cultural and religious connotations. It applied for the other carvings from wood, bone or greenstone and whatever was brought forward out of them.

The different types of Maori carvings have found enthusiasts far and wide, and in the modern world. But many people are only fascinated by the intricate designs and the finesse of the pieces without regard to the value and meaning they hold to the Maori. To these people all around the globe, the carvings are for aesthetic and ornamental value either as necklaces and pendants or as art pieces to complement the furnishings in the home. The hei-tiki is most common and has been replicated for contemporary purposes. This is to heightened contempt from the purists who value the dexterous works put into a piece by the Maori craftsmen and the historical as well as traditional significance of the pieces. The hei-tiki as earlier mentioned are carved human figures and are believed to be fertility charms. They are the archetypical Maori artifact. What is of enthrallment is that the original pieces from New Zealand are made from nephrite; a precious stone locally called pounamu and green stone in New Zealand English. The stone is both beautiful and hard thus making it very labor intensive to work on it. They are worn during special ceremonies around the neck hanging on plaited cord and its luster improves with time. In traditional times, some hei-tiki were made of ivory, teeth or bone of whales. The most common ones today have been produced for trade and are made of cow bone.

Other notable Maori carvings are those of sea creatures especially the whale, the manaia which bears a bird's head and marakihau a sea monster with the human figure. There were also the bone fish-hooks worn as ornaments symbolizing fertility and prosperity.

The Maori carvings that follow traditional designs and the fundamentals of tradition, spirituality and legends though made on bone are appreciated both for contemporary use and for the cultural meaning.


Maori Bone Art
Maori hand carved Bone, Jade, Wood & Pearl shell pendants, carvings, gifts & art from New Zealand.
Carved Bone Hook Pendant

Carved Bone Hook Pendants

Hand crafted New Zealand Maori bone carving designs, from the very traditional pieces to more contemporary designs. Contemporary include: Whale tails, Humpback whales, dolphins, sharks & many modern designs.
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New Zealand Maori design, hand carved bone, jade (greenstone) & pearl shell pendants, carvings, gifts & art.