While Poutama Hetaraka has been surrounded by the imagery and korero around whakairo all his life, he has been totally immersed and working at it seriously for the past six years.
“Carving to me is our connection to our people – it joins the past, present and future – it is our hononga ki te ao tawhito. For me there is a sense of aio, calmness in creativity.”
Poutama is not only learning the traditions of whakairo and ta moko from his father, Te Warihi, but also engages with modern technology to create distinctly Maori graphic designs.
He has made his mark on Te Rau Aroha, the new Maori Battalion museum and waharoa at Waitangi, the whare hui Rongomaraeroa at Mokau Marae and Kamo High School, pou at the new Matakohe bridge and the Camera Obscura sculpture.. He also creates intricate exhibition and commissioned pieces.
A career highlight was a collaboration with Ngai Tahu tohunga whakairo James Yorke to be the first Maori carvers to work in Antarctica. They completed and installed a pare and whakawae at Scott Base in Antarctica in February 2019.
“Antarctica for me was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. It was eye opening in so many ways and the biggest thing I learnt was how important it is for us to look after what we have.”
He continues to learn the skills of waka carving since participating in Rāta Tarai Waka waka carving symposia since 2019.
As one of the resident carvers at Hihiaua, Poutama hopes to see the Hihiaua precinct thriving through all aspects of Maori culture.
“It is not just for Maori to enjoy, but for everyone to get a glimpse into the richness and beauty of our culture”