Life for Taonga By Timoti began with Tim’s moemoeā of the green taniwha pulling him into the awa. You can read more about that on our home page, suffice to say this moemoeā changed our lives. Before this time Tim was working in the building trade. This work paid the bills but Tim was away a lot with his mahi, which wasn’t the life we envisioned for our whanau, and we felt stuck in a rut. Tim is a very creative man and being a direct descendent of Hinangaroa, who established perhaps the most renowned school for traditional arts in Aotearoa(Te Rawheoro whare wānanga of Uawa), carving has always been in his blood. As a young man he carved bone pendants for his friends and whanau and just before his moemoeā Tim had once again picked up his carving tools to create a piece to sit on his tupuna’s head stone in Uawa. When Tim’s moemoeā led him to his first piece of pounamu so began our wild ride in to a whole new way of living, thinking and seeing our world.
Tim went to Whakatu marae to have his first taonga blessed and ensure he was acting with tikanga. He gifted a large piece of this taonga to the marae, it now resides in the whare nui where it can be enjoyed by all. We then launched in to a great deal of learning and connecting with those who had the knowledge. Like most NZers we had been bought up to believe that Pounamu only resided on the West coast of Aotearoa so there was a period of disbelief for us. But once we connected with the experts (Russell Beck, GNS, Clem Mellish) and had our finds confirmed everything moved forward with a rush. This was (and continues to be) a fascinating learning time for us, to discover that Pounamu comes in nearly every colour and shade of the rainbow, from black to white, blue, grey and red and that we could find that all here in Te Tau Ihu, was just mind-blowing. We were, we are, on a mission to learn it all and share all we learn with everyone and anyone who is interested! Since then we have connected with many locals who have been collecting and carving Pounamu from Te Tau Ihu for many years. We have learned so much about the geology of Pounamu, it’s cultural significance to Maori and the tikanga around it.
Tim’s first workshop was on the front porch of our wee home. While not an ideal location (freezing cold in winter, hot in summer, noisy and messy) it was all we had and Tim made the most of it. Tim started playing around with the stone and building his own tools to cut and carve. With the help of fellow carvers he learnt how to distinguish great stone from mediocre pieces, how to observe tikanga in the craft, and simply how to shape the taonga. He wanted to develop his own style and so avoided any formal training. Alongside us, whanau and friends were fascinated and delighted with what Tim was creating.
As we shared our learning with those around us we began to see that this was a wonderful way to share Te Ao Māori with others too. So, as we are discovering Māori history, legends, language and tikanga, we are able to share that with those who we were meeting through the taonga. Our wee whanau began weekly reo lessons to help develop our understanding of ourselves and our place in Aotearoa as a bi-cultural whanau. Our tamariki love to share their knowledge and learning with friends too and as they do so they glow with confidence in who they are and where they come from. We really wanted to share this learning with a wider audience and had big visions of building a kura onsite where others could come and dive in to this magnificent world we found ourselves in.
And so we were rolling along in our new groove, Tim building up customers through word of mouth marketing, increasing knowledge as we went along and sharing that with everyone we could along the way. Then good fortune had us meet “The Maui Boys”, Vince and Madison from Maui Studios. These two saw our vision and believed that what were doing, and wanted to do, was an excellent idea! We’d heard about Te Putahitanga o te Waipounamu and their funding but these guys encouraged us to apply and believed in us enough to support us in that endeavour. So we did apply and, after a nail biting 2 months, we were informed we had been successful in our application. At that moment, when Tim read out the email of confirmation, I (Morganne) actually squealed with delight! Our dreams were about to come true!
And so here we are today. With the help of the funding and mentors at Te Putahitanga o te Waipounamu Tim has built a carving studio away from the front porch and full of all sorts of tools that he needs to perfect his art. His own cave where he can create and carve at all hours without disturbing our daily routine, but is still so close that we are living our days together as we’ve always wanted to. We have been able to build and launch this website as a way of showcasing Tim’s pieces and connecting with those who can not come to meet us in person.
Most importantly, we have been developing a programme to work with rangatahi, both in schools and rangatahi who find traditional educational systems challenging. Here( https://vimeo.com/229968370) you can see some video footage of the work we did with the youth programme Tiramarama Mai, we will continue to do more work of this nature in the future. We believe that education develops understanding and acceptance. Our goal is to help others understand Te Ao Māori, understand themselves and to care for the earth we have been given, by sharing the knowledge we have gained on our journey and helping guide others on their own path.