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A Whakapapa of Tradition

From the emergence of the chapel and the wharenui in the nineteenth century to the rejuvenation of carving by Apirana Ngata in the 1920s, M?ori carving went through a rapid evolution from 1830 to 1930. Focusing on thirty meeting houses, Ngarino Ellis tells the story of Ng?ti Porou carving and a profound transformation in M?ori art. Beginning around 1830, three previously dominant art traditions - waka taua (war canoes), p?taka (decorated storehouses) and whare rang?tira (chief's houses) - declined and were replaced by whare karakia (churches), whare whakairo (decorated meeting houses) and wharekai (dining halls). Ellis examines how and why that fundamental transformation took place by exploring the Iwir?kau School of carving, based in the Waiapu Valley on the East Coast of the North Island. An ancestor who lived around the year 1700, Iwir?kau is credited for reinvigorating the art of carving in the Waiapu region. The six major carvers of his school went on to create more than thirty important meeting houses and other structures. During this transformational period, carvers and patrons re-negotiated key concepts such as tikanga (tradition), tapu (sacredness) and mana (power, authority) - embedding them within the new architectural forms whilst preserving rituals surrounding the creation and use of buildings. A Whakapapa of Tradition tells us much about the art forms themselves but also analyses the environment that made carving and building possible: the patrons who were the enablers and transmitters of culture; the carvers who engaged with modern tools and ideas; and the communities as a whole who created the new forms of art and architecture. This book is both a major study of Ng?ti Porou carving and an attempt to make sense of M?ori art history. What makes a tradition in M?ori art? Ellis asks. How do traditions begin? Who decides this? Conversely, how and why do traditions cease? And what forces are at play which make some buildings acceptable and others not? Beautifully illustrated with new photography by Natalie Robertson, and drawing on the work of key scholars to make a new synthetic whole, this book will be a landmark volume in the history of writing about M?ori art.
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About the Author

Ngarino Ellis (Ng?puhi, Ng?ti Porou) is a lecturer in the Department of Art History at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is the co-editor with Deidre Brown of Te Puna: M?ori Art from Northland (Reed, 2007), as well as the author of a number of scholarly articles. Her prime research focus is Maori art history, and she has also lectured on art crime, including theft, illicit antiquities, looting, forgery and vandalism. In 2012 she was appointed co-ordinator for the Museums and Cultural Heritage Programme in the Faculty of Arts. Ellis is a co-investigator (with Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Deidre Brown) on the three-year Marsden Fund project `Toi Te Mana: A History of Indigenous Art in Aotearoa New Zealand'. A Whakapapa of Tradition is based on her 2012 PhD thesis.Natalie Robertson (Ng?ti Porou, Clann Dhonnchaidh) is a photographic artist and senior lecturer at AUT University, New Zealand. Robertson has an MFA from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and is enrolled in the PhD programme at Massey University, New Zealand researching photography in Maori contexts. She has exhibited extensively in public institutions throughout New Zealand and internationally.

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