“No Whītī taku Papa, no Maniapoto taku Mama.
Ko Jon Mahuika-Jeet taku ingoa.”

“I’m a Maori Fijian-Indian guy who was brought up in Invercargill, in a place that was predominantly European. From a young age I was constantly thinking about my identity because I looked so different from everyone else. I was not European, I was not Maori, nor was I Indian, as these were communities we had very little contact associating with. I felt alienated. So, I guess my whole practice, pounamu and portraiture centres around identity. Ko Wai au? Who am I?

“I must have been 24 years old when we (ex-partner and daughter) moved up to Greymouth. We fell in love with the scenery, I dabbled in landscape painting. I could sit there and paint all day.  But then I found Greenstone and thought, I want to explore and play with this thing. I spent the next six years in Greymouth carving Greenstone. I decided I needed to come here and get a degree. We moved our family from Greymouth to Christchurch, and in 2014 I left Uni with a masters in painting. I’m now a teacher at Ao Tawhiti teaching senior level Art, and on the odd occasion, I’m able to find the time to carve.

I’ve been working with Pounamu for 18 years and taught many the art of carving. There’s such an immediacy to the process as after a few hours of work you’ve got a finished piece. My wife Irihapeti and I formed a trust as we saw a need to develop a Kaupapa to deliver and guide whanau about this precious taonga.  

 The trust is based in North New Brighton, our homebase is called Tūhono Taonga Tūhono Tāngata. It came about by a student inquiry at a local high school, Haeata. That student and a few others came to my workshop. After building relationships with some of the Kaiako there, we thought, what if we brought this into the school program and worked directly with students? That led to us building a pounamu workspace within Haeata. So it grew from that, we figured that having it localised to one area wasn’t enough and having a mobile carving unit itself would give us access to other schools.  

 It’s about finding a way to engage with people. We all have stories as to what Pounamu means to us, intergenerationally. I get to make Taonga for people, you know, for events, for key milestones in people’s lives. I’m the Pounamu guy.” 


Charity registration number: CC57701