Derek Lardelli is overseeing the restoration of carvings from the Te Poho o Rawiri meeting house by teachers and students of Toihoukura, the school of Māori visual arts in Gisborne.
The 88-year-old carvings have decayed over time and are in need of repair.
Lardelli says the carvings are "for all to witness and behold. If we leave them they will decay and the house will fall. To me, we need to restore them for all to see that this meeting house has divine prestige.”
The work will be carried out thanks to the contributions of the many staff and students at Toihoukura.
The students are fortunate to have arrived at this time, where they've witnessed the scale of work being done by Ayson Lewis and Makarini Solomon to repair and enhance this meeting house, for this old chief Rāwiri Te Eke to stand strong once again,” says Lardelli.
The carvings were made in 1900 by Ngāti Porou master carver Pine Taiapa and others during the great resurgence and revival of carved meeting houses on the East Coast, lead by Sir Apirana Ngata.
The meeting house honours the divine lineage of Rāwiri Te Eke Tū o te Rangi.
“He has divine authority and prestige, from above and below, handed down from his ancestors, from the beginning of time. That type of divine authority similar to that of our paramount chief Te Kani a Takirau,” says Lardelli.
However, not all of the carvings can be saved.
“If it's repaired and put back up on its platform, it won't be long until it will decay. It needs to be put to sleep, the carved figure on the gable of the meeting house needs to be put to sleep and another one raised for all to behold,” says Lardelli, of one such carving.
The restoration team aims to complete the project in the new year.