Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Art Deco Maori
New Zealanders have always had a habit of doing things their way, so it should be no surprise to anyone that when inner city Napier was rebuilt in 1932 after the 1931 earthquake that claimed 258 lives, designers of the day incorporated Maori designs into some of the Art Deco buildings. Today Napier is lauded as one of the finest examples of mass Art Deco building in the world – and the only one that includes Maori design motifs.
There are four buildings in the city that include Maori design and by far the most impressive is the ASB Bank building which has a stunningly beautiful interior ceiling that features stylised red, black and white Maori designs in an amazing kowhaiwhai pattern. A matching frieze runs around the tops of the walls. I don’t have a photograph of that – yet – but I intend getting one on my trip to Napier next month. The outside of the building also features koru and zig-zag designs similar to those used in Maori weaving. They symbolise waves and represent Raumano (the whale). This combination of elements resembles the ancient aukati (barring the way) design but equally represents pure Art Deco design. The whale motif is continued in the bronze grille over the windows. In the meantime, I can show you these photos that I took on last year’s Napier visit. They’re from the exterior of the Napier Antiques Centre and, as unimpressive as they are as photographs, they do give you an idea of the combination of Art Deco and Maori design elements.