Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Meet the People - 17

Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – Nathan Jerry (Tainui) is a long way from his Kawhia (Waikato) roots – he’s lived in Invercargill all his life and it’s there that he’s made a career for himself as a carver. Nathan, 38, was bundled up against the cold the day I found him at the Queenstown Saturday Market selling his wares. I had to talk him into a photograph but he talked freely about his passion for carving and especially for pounamu (jade). “I did my training in traditional wood carving in Invercargill and while I’ve carved in wood, bone, stone, shell, I prefer pounamu above anything else. It’s as if all my years of carving have led me to pounamu. I have a huge respect for it. It’s such a beautiful stone with incredible colour variation. Some pieces just carve themselves. It’s an awesome medium,” he says.

Nathan, who has been carving commercially for eight years, carved the Potuku Manawa (centre post) at Invercargill’s Murihiku Marae. He took those traditional skills with wood and applied them to pounamu. “I’m self taught when it comes to stone but after three and a half years of working with jade, I’ve found my niche.”

All images. Queenstown. May 2009 Ajr.
Nathan also works as a commercial paua diver in the cold southern oceans from Oamaru south, around Stewart Island and into Milford Sound. “I love pounamu and I love the ocean so it’s a happy marriage for me. Most of my designs are quite traditional and I work around several ocean themes – wave forms, whales, hei matau (fish hook).” He was also the lucky recipient of a gift of the sought-after pounamu called Tangiwai (actually Bowenite) – the rarest form of all from Milford Sound. It’s much lighter in colour and is now fully protected. “I was very lucky to know a man who collected it over 60 years ago and he gave me some to work with. It’s a privilege to be able to work with it.”

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