New sculptures look half-human half-tree
Local artist Chris Bryant-Toi tells a story of water, fire, and whenua in his latest sculpture trilogy. The first of three 8m-high pou were blessed by mana whenua on Friday as they found their resting place along Te Ara Kahikatea, the highway which joins State Highway 51 and Pakowhai Rd. The Mills Family Trust mostly funded the cost of the $170,000 works, with Hastings District Council chipping in $30,000. The story connected to the sculptures, as told by Nga¯ti Porou artist Bryant-Toi, relates to the history of the surrounding area across three specific time periods — pre-colonial, colonial and modern. “I wanted to reflect the changing landscape in relation to the road, where it cuts through the Whakatu¯ industrial area and Karamu Rd. “It isn’t so much a reference to our ancestors but a brief look into the ecology of the area,” Bryant-Toi said. The sculptures come as the second stage of a three-year collaborative project, after the completion of the arterial road link in 2019. “While they were establishing the road they happened across several archeological sites, fire scoops, that have since been carbondated to the 15th century. “I wanted to align our modern age with old traditions of the past and how we talk about the occupation of these spaces from a Ma¯ori point of view,” he said. The sculptures at first sight appear half-human, halfkahikatea, and on closer inspection reveal more of their meaning. Hidden treasures like a nga¯kau/heart made of stones reference the fires scoops that were found in the area and ahi ka¯ — the fires of early Ma¯ori occupation. “I collected the stones from discarded fires between the Tukituki river mouth and the tea a Rangi star compass, where all of the rivers meet. The stones are connectors to our waterways and to Ta¯nenui-a¯-Rangi, the knowledge man,” he said. The sculpture of Ta¯ne-nuia¯-Rangi acknowledges the former Ngaruroro pa¯, whose strength came from the kahikatea trees that formed the fence posts guarding the site. Ta¯ne stands on the corner of Karamu¯ Rd and Napier Rd. The second sculpture called Pu¯toto is on the corner of Te Ara Kahikatea and Whakatu¯ Rd and is connected to the atua of igneous rock. The third pou that sits on the corner of Te Ara Kahikatea and Pakowhai Rd is Parawhenuamea, the atua of sedimentary rock.