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Tohunga Whakairo: Paki Harrision by Ranginui Walker (2008)

This book is the story of master carver Pakāriki Harrison whose work comprises 10 carved meeting houses and numerous individual commissions. The mix of skill, intellect and unending appetite for knowledge on the part of both biographer and subject allows for an insightful story of Pakāriki Harrison’s remarkable achievement in one lifetime.

Publication details

Walker, R. Tohunga Whakairo: Paki Harrison. Auckland, Penguin, 2008.

About the book

Ranginui Walker (Whakatōhea) carefully tracks the young Paki Harrison through whakapapa, childhood in Ruatoria, early influences and his training as a schoolteacher, which gave him insight into the lives of less privileged communities. There are hints in these early pages of what is to come: from adventures while felling and sawing timbers with his father Harangi, to an account of a pivotal phase during Paki’s teacher training at Palmerston North: Pine Taiapa came to visit Paki in the evenings to tutor him and carefully encourage his interest.

Walker deftly illustrates how Paki’s early life was being carefully moulded to equip him with the tools needed for what was to unfold. Nevertheless, his was not to be the tapu life of the tohunga of the traditional world. Paki revels in being the occasional rabble-rouser, Paki falls in love and marries Hinemoa, Paki buys a Ford Zephyr, Paki carves in the presence of his grand-daughter.

Focusing on the life of this carver, Tohunga Whakairo also provides fascinating insight into the massive shifts in Māori society over the last few generations. Walker examines how the functional values of tohungatanga have become reframed in New Zealand’s hybrid society of Polynesian and Occidental practices. Pakāriki Harrison was unquestionably a Master of Whakairo, but it is clear that an expansive vision led him to master many other skills during his lifetime.

Further information 

 

This publication is part of the series Te Takarangi: Celebrating Māori publications - a sample list of 150 non-fiction books produced by a partnership between Royal Society Te Apārangi and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.