A Māori carver is among eight New Zealand artists recognised as Arts Foundation Laureates for 2021.
Rangi Kipa grew up in the “staunch little town” of Waitara and its “backdrop of the land confiscations and land wars”.
While there are few mediums Kipa hasn't managed to master, his specialty is whale teeth, which is “highly prized by our people”.
“In the Pacific, whale's teeth is the equivalent of our gold, culturally,” he explained to Seven Sharp.
Fellow carver Bernard Makoare says while Kipa creates modern artefacts, they “would be just as at home having been created a 1000 years ago”.
Kipa was looking for “a new challenge” and “what might be another legacy space” – and the brand-new New Plymouth Airport building provided the perfect opportunity.
The process of creating the carving, which spans the entire terminal, took three years and was designed “from the ground up”.
"The highest point of the building is represented as Tamarau, and then the lowest part of the building is represented as Rongo, so land-sky relationship."
He says the airport commission is especially meaningful.
“I grew up at the end of that runway. My grandfather's buried at the end of the runway,” he said.
"When the land was bulldozed to flatten it off and the pā sites were bulldozed to flatten it off for the airport, our people went along and picked up all those bones and just reinterred them so there’s a lot of meaning in that land for us.”
Kipa’s next works will be even grander, with “a number of major projects happening in Wellington”, including the new National Archive building and the redesign of the National Library.