Tohunga Whakairo: Paki Harrison. The Story of a Master Carver.

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It was an inspired choice that Ranginui Walker was commissioned to write this book. He successfully places the extraordinary character of master carver Paki Harrison into an historical, cultural, academic and political context, whilst never letting us forget that this almost mythical genius is very much a man with his personal conflicts, successes and devotion.

Kaupapa Maori is a term used to describe a plan of action, expressing the aspirations and particular Maori values and principles. Throughout history it has meant the values and plans of action decided by Maori, or the values and action plans which express a set of deeper cultural values and worldview. Today Kaupapa Maori is often used as a strategy, or a plan of action to allow Maori to find a voice, particularly within academic institutions. It is also used in relation to transformation and cultural liberation.

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For Paki Harrison, a man well versed in tradition, and priviledged in his receiving of the knowedge of history, carving and bushcraft, Kaupapa Maori is central to his work and existence. Whenever approached to create, he would discuss and research the history of the people of the land, their tribal affiliations, and the purpose of the work within the social and political environment.

His questions were at their most searching when invited to Te Awamutu College to work on Te Otawhao. Saddened and challenged by the sight of Maori young people on the streets, those who had been failed by their elders and the education system, he recruited fourteen young men and seventeen young women with no educational qualifications for on the job training for the marae project.

Harrison so believed in this project that he accepted the work without a salary, just the provision of a basic house, food and petrol. It is a story of resourcefulness, working on a dump site to construct a magnificent structure with extraordinary carving and art that inspired a community and provided skills for alienated school dropouts.

This book may be about one brilliant man, but through his life, art and battles, Walker offers an invaluable insight into the treasures of New Zealand and a way of seeing the world that will inspire and challenge readers.

Author: Ranginui Walker

ISBN13: 9780143010067

Genre: Biography, Carving, New Zealand

Publisher: Penguin Group (NZ)

Page count: 256

Price: NZ$40.00

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