Whakairo rakau (wood carving) focuses on using a range of native timbers, particularly wood from the majestic giants of the forest, the kauri and totara. The trees used for wood carving represent Tāne Mahuta, the god of the forest.
Each carving tells a story and records a piece of history.
Wood-carvers used tools made from greenstone, which was prized for its strength.
Precious adornments were (and are still) worn as a sign of prestige; they included ear pendants, breast pendants and carved combs worn in the hair.
Pounamu is still a popular choice for jewellery today.
As well as pounamu, carvers also shaped adornments from whale ivory and whalebone.
Bone was also carved into fish hooks.
Traditional carving continues to thrive today. Just as tā moko or traditional Māori tattoos, have seen a renaissance, wood carving continues to have major spiritual and cultural significance, and is still widely used for whare whakairo (communal meeting houses).
Where to see Māori carving
These experiences offer the chance to come up close and personal with some stunning Māori carvings