Students’ carvings will be shown in US
Kempton Demuth, 17, and Tioirangi Smith, 19, carved model canoes and life-size paddles in a Native American style, during Journeys in Creativity’s two-week programme at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in August.
The exhibition, Art of the Canoe, will feature pieces made by the programme’s 16 participants and will be shown at various locations in the Pacific North-West states of Washington and Oregon.
Whakairo (Maori carving) tutor and master carver Dr Takirirangi Smith met programme manager Shirod Younker in 2007 while presenting a lecture on indigenous knowledge at Lewis and Clark College in Portland.
Journeys in Creativity was established to help further the study of Native American art and craft for Native American students. The programme is open to teens aged 15 to 19 who show an interest and talent in art and exploring culture.
Tioirangi and Kempton were the first Kiwis to attend since the programme’s inception in 2004, and they would be welcome to return.
Mr Younker says they were excellent ambassadors who could share their culture.
“They made great impressions on our tribal instructors,” he says.
Kempton says the programme was good for him and is already saving up to go back next year.
“Doing a whole lot of stuff in one week pushed me to want to do more things instead of just taking my time with one project,” he says.
Of Ngati Toarangatira, Ngai Tahu and Ngati Ruahine descent, Kempton maintains a strong interest in Maoritanga and attended kura kaupapa before joining Whitireia. Having learnt about the traditional Native American way of life and the modern, he can see a parallel with Maori.
He says they share a sense of loss: “We both got stuffed over as a culture.”
“It opened my eyes to a whole other culture. All I knew about Native Americans was that they had horses and they lived in the desert but they don’t.”
For Tioirangi, of Ngati Kahungunu and Te Aitanga a Hauiti, the chance to travel has opened his eyes to the opportunities carving can bring.
Despite also attending kura in the past, this is the first time Tioirangi has taken an interest in Maori culture.
“It makes me want to learn more,” he says. “It’s been fun so far.”
Whakairo is not just an art form. Dr Smith says it is significant for its storytelling, and promotes Maori culture.
PICTURE: Kempton (above) and Tioirangi (top): Enriched by Oregon experience.