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Ideas welling from the fount of Faber Optimé.

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Gift to Aotearoa: Whakatau's Army

Here's a new take on a very old idea!

Back in around 210BC, Qin Shi Huang (1st Emperor of China) commissioned the Terracotta Army (traditional Chinese: 兵馬俑; simplified Chinese: 兵马俑; pinyin: bīngmǎ yǒng; literally "soldier and horse funerary statues"), for his mausoleum. Discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, it is thought to comprise over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

World renowned, this unique creation continues to intrigue and inspire...

Now consider carving (whakairo in Māori).

It remains a common and popular Kiwi artform, commercial product and hobby, with wood and bone carving being the most ubiquitous, also precious stones such as pounamu (greenstone) and/or shells such as paua (abalone).

Whilst there are many examples (such as those shown opposite) of what could be called traditional Māori styling, every carver of course offers their own unique characteristics, perspective, contribution, interpretation and style.

A distant, modern echo of Qin Shi Huang's vision, what a wonder it would be to see a contemporary army of unique, carved Māori warriors...

Add to the mix a good Māori legend (there may be a better, more appropriate subject, dependent upon the host locale chosen).

In Māori mythology, Whakatau (or Whakatau-pōtiki) is a son of Tūwhakararo and Apakura. In one story, Tūwhakararo is murdered by the men of the Ati Hapai tribe and Whakatau sets out on a quest to rescue the bones of his father and to avenge his death.

He assembles an army, and prepares his war canoes (or waka) Whiritoa, Tapatapa-hukarere, Hakirere, Toroa-i-taipakihi, Mahunu-awatea and others.

The expedition sets off and Whakatau, with his best men, besieges a great house called Te Uru-o-Manono where the enemy are gathered. The house is burned and the people of Ati Hapai are wiped out.

So here's the idea:

  • Obtain a diverse collection of Māori warrior carvings ("Whakatau's Army"), distinct yet comparable to the Terracotta Army.
    • By way of a competition, with prizes (e.g. best under 14; best commercial; best waka; etc.).
    • From the public - using the most numerous and diverse of all possible contributors.
    • Some broad guidelines, as to maximum/minimum size and permissible materials.
    • Showcase the finest works of the finest craftsmen.
    • Definately national, possibly international.
    • A notable contribution to global, cultural achievements.
  • Requiring an eighteen month (to two year) implementation plan:
    • Six months planning (defining prize group classifications, timings, etc.), obtaining host site and funding (e.g. commercial sponsorship; lottery monies).
    • Public competition launch and six month contribution production/promotion period.
    • Six months deployment (winners awards; public visitor opening; initial permanent exhibit marketing and complete establishment of business as usual).
I for one would love to see a permanent display of legions of unique, carved warriors in a New Zealand town...

Pictures courtesy of Tor Svensson and Sea Breeze Souvenir and Tourist Boutique.

Date & Time Posted 8:07 PM, Wednesday, June 03, 2009, by Faber Optimé.
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