Combining Maori and Sarawakian craftsmanship *updated*
By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
Hornbills are probably the first on my list when it comes to ‘best couple’ as well as ‘parents’.
Hornbills have monogamous relationships and stay loyal to each other until their final days. When the female hornbill is sealed in the nest cavity with her chicks, she is dependent on her partner for food. While the male searches for food, the female stays in the hole until her chicks are old enough. The female hornbill undergoes a complete moult, which means she will drop all her feathers at once and therefore cannot fly while nursing her chicks.
The act of guardianship or how hornbills look after each other is what Maori mastercarver James Rickard is trying to portray in his latest wood carving project, an impressive 16 foot long , 20 inch wide and 4 inch thick piece of belian wood.
According to Rickard, who is also the Tumu Whakairo (head of school) for Te Wananga Whakairo Rakau o Aotearoa – New Zealand’s National Wood Carving School, woodcarvings in Maori culture are usually inspired by nature where it is used to portray human values.
“When I look at Sarawak, I look at the hornbill and how it behaves and protects its mate and young.” said Rickard.
In his latest project, Rickard is teaming up with local carver, Henry Muda to work on the 16-foot belian wood inspired by the hornbill with Maori carvings and influence.
In the middle of the belian wood, a hornbill head will be attached it once the carving is done. Another carving portraying the seedpod of a fruit will be attached to the wing of the hornbill. The colour red, black, white and yellow will also be added to portray the native culture of Sarawak.
Rickard had created the head of the hornbill before he came to Sarawak on March 12 in time for New Zealand week March 18-23, but unfortunately it is too small for the 20 inch wide wood.
“I have to start making it from scratch again.” he said with a laugh.
The belian wood was given by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang who requested the master carver to create a carving to be gifted to the Sarawak State Government.
When asked whether he was facing difficulties using belian wood as this was his first time working with it, Rickard said there was not much difficulty working with hardwood although one had to be careful not to chip too much out of it and therefore less mistakes are made.
For 74-year-old local carver Henry Muda, this is not the first time he has worked with belian wood. His love for wood carving started at a young age when he was inspired and intrigued at the workmanship of the native as a young boy.
“This is nothing new to me as I have worked with belian wood before,” he said
The hornbill carving will be presented to the Sarawak State Government on the 21st March during the State Banquet during the arrival of New Zealand delegation led by Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples.
A couple weeks after the state banquet , I went looking for the completed carving with fellow Seedlings Jude Toyat and Patricia Hului and found it at the Sarawak Art Museum where it was on display. I made good use of my colleagues to show the scale of the completed work. What d’you think?