Study of carving tradition picks up award

18 May 2017
A Whakapapa of Tradition

A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 1830–1930 by art historian Dr Ngarino Ellis won the Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction at the recent Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

The book combines Māori tradition, history and art, and features beautiful images by Natalie Robertson.

Ngarino says that they are both "humbled by the Award, and hope that the book may inspire others from whānau, hapū and iwi to also write their art histories."

"We are proud to be Ngāti Porou women writing about our history, our ancestors."

Ngarino argues that from the emergence of the chapel and the wharenui in the nineteenth century, to the rejuvenation of carving by Apirana Ngata in the 1920s, Māori carving went through a rapid evolution from 1830 to 1930. Focusing on thirty meeting houses, she tells the story of Ngāti Porou carving and a profound transformation in Māori art.

The book is both a major study of Ngāti Porou carving and an attempt to make sense of Māori art history.

It is published by Auckland University Press.

AUP director Sam Elworthy says the team is "enormously proud of Ngarino and Natalie’s best first book win".

"It's work that embodies so many values that really matter and that we embrace — a commitment to long term research, a deep engagement with Māori tradition and history and the power of images and text working together. We congratulate author and photographer.”

Master of Creative Writing graduate Gina Cole’s debut short story collection Black Ice Matter also won the Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction.


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