An art, a skill, a tradition

The art of wood carving (whakairo).


Wood carving and the forests that supply the treasured material have played an important and respected role in Maori culture since before the first people arrived on New Zealand aboard their fleet of great ocean-going waka (canoes).

Traditional structures and many objects that featured in daily Maori life are covered in elaborately carved decoration, from the prow of a waka (canoe) and posts of a wharenui (meeting houses) to taiaha (weapons). While each object serves as a functional work of art, it also tells a story and helps to record what has gone before.

Maori wood-carvers used tools made from greenstone, which was precious for its strength as well as its natural beauty. The art of wood carving is called whakairo rakau and focuses on using a range of native timbers, particularly wood from the majestic giants of the forest, the kauri and totara.

Requiring patience, diligence and an intuition for the organic material, whakairo rakau is more than an historical curiosity in New Zealand, it is a skill that many continue to hone both in honour of their heritage and to carry the lessons it teaches forward.

Rangi Kipa, Tohunga Whakairo, Auckland

As something bound so intimately in New Zealand's history, it was the perfect art form to create the logo for the 100% Pure New Zealand brand.


From the precious wood the letters were made from, to the the skill required to carve them, the logo is something distinctly and authentically New Zealand.

It's a really simple way of delivering an aesthetic that people can recognise as being anchored here in Aotearoa... The only way to demarcate us is to make sure that there is a level of depth to the narrative that is unmistakeably Aotearoa, New Zealand

Carved letters, Wellington

Letters used to create the 100% PURE NEW ZEALAND logo

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