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Māori carving - Whakairo

22 Aug 2014

Our Subjects / Ā Mātou Kaupapa:
Arts, Māori, Technology

What do the different patterns in Māori carvings mean?

LEVEL: Secondary

Have you ever wondered where and why carvings were used by the Māori people?  Are you interested in finding out how such work has evolved over time?  What do the different patterns mean?

The word whakairo is the Māori term used for carving and is often associated with Whare Whakairo (The Carved House).  Most whakairo are seen on the marae, but in more recent times whakairo have been used to adorn most Government buildings, learning institutes, schools and public buildings to embrace our countries heritage.

Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand has some fantastic information about carving, see the links below for more:

Also, by typing the term 'carving' into the search box (top right hand corner) you will see a list of stories about whakairo that might be useful. also has some good general information about carving and its meanings that could be helpful such as:

  • carvings, head shapes and patterns

You will find the information you are looking for under 'carving' in the drop down menu on the front page.

To find out about some of the tools the Māori people have used to make carvings, check our ManyAnswers entry on Māori Tools and Technology.

HOT TIP: Beware when using a search engine such as google to search for Māori carvings - most of the sites you will see are commercial sites, remember that sites with .govt and .org in the address are the best.

josh, dhd

thanks, this is very helpful.
thanks again
michael, burnside high school

ben, dhs

Didn't help me
., .

I'm sorry you didn't find it useful :( There is heaps of information about Māori carving available through these links. If you're looking for something in particular try chatting with a librarian on, Monday to Friday 1-6pm :) All the best with your research!
Sargia, AnyQuestions

thanks really helped
Samuel, tairangi

First Name / Ingoa Tuātahi

School / Kura

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