Fallen trees turned into works of art

An innovative cultural festival has rescued many trees felled by the East Coast Cyclones and has turned them into cultural artworks as part of Matariki 2023.

Cyclone recovery comes in many forms, and one is people coming together again as a community. Not far from Gisborne on Tairawhiti’s storm-damaged hinterland of Okahuatiu Te Māra Rākaunui O Aotearoa, New Zealand’s National Arboretum at Eastwoodhill, home to over 25,000 exotic trees and this was a celebration site for the week of Matariki in July.

A carving symposium held at Eastwoodhill repurposed trees native to other countries and outstanding timber species by turning them into works of art instead of possibly being wasted.

The event was free to the public, the five-day international indigenous sculpture symposium ran from Tuesday 12 July to the end of Saturday 15 July. Visitors watched massive log wood recovered from the arboretum turned into works created by international and local Māori carving artists-in-residence. The artists who participated in the event: Matt Randall, Ayson Lewis, Nuck Tupara, Shirod Younker (USA), Simon Lardelli, Makarini Solomon, Tam Tuhou, Pou Puketapu, Tāwera Tahuri and Henare Tahuri.

The idea was proposed by leaders from Te Whanau a Kai after the recent cyclones and storms. They teamed up with Te Māra Rākaunui O Aotearoa, New Zealand’s National Arboretum to celebrate the site’s cultural history, significance, and the site of Houpapa Whenua for the people of Te Whanau a Kai, the local Iwi. Supported by Creative New Zealand and the Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival, the resulting artworks were gifted back to the arboretum.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for the public to observe the creative process of indigenous artists as they acknowledge Te Whanau a Kai and celebrate Matariki with Toi Tārai, sculpture,” says Tāwera Tahuri, Senior Adviser, International Indigenous Exchange, Whakawhiti Iwi Taketake, Creative New Zealand.

“110 years ago, extraordinary vision and focus planted Eastwoodhill,” says Jane Williams, Chair of the National Arboretum,” now we have the opportunity to create and be the first in Aotearoa to further continue that vision with inspiring cultural inclusivity, respect and recognition.”
Revered internationally, the arboretum offers an outstanding tree bathing experience, walking trails, a playground, an interpretation centre, a library, a café, a shop and a soon-to-be-opened motor caravan site. The regenerative oasis of human wellbeing is only a 30-minute drive from the Gisborne city centre.

The public was invited with free entry for the duration of the carving symposium and the café was open for on-site home-baked scones and coffee/ tea, there was also a sausage sizzle run throughout the duration of the event.

There were around 6000 people who attended the weeklong celebration, which was a fantastic turnout, and fabulous support from the locals!

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