Te Puru School embarks on new Māori carving project

In the small coastal settlement of Te Puru, north of Thames, on Te Tara o te Whai/Coromandel Peninsula, a local primary school is bringing the concept of Kotahitanga (Unity) to the forefront with a unique pou whenua (traditional Māori carved wooden post) carving and mural project. 


Te Puru School provides education for children in Years 1 to 8, and has a roll of approximately 160 students, including 31 Māori students and 31 students from a range of other nationalities. 


This isn’t the first time Te Puru School students have participated in a public art project of this nature. In February 2020, they worked with well-known Thames-based multimedia artist, Fatu Feu’u to adorn park benches with carvings, as a way of incorporating art into the public space. 


This was the students’ first carving opportunity and a chance to learn new skills, alongside an established artist. The benches are situated in Thornton Bay for local residents to admire and use. 


The project was co-led by Fatu and recently retired school principal and community project leader, Janet Jones, and was part of a bigger project implemented by Thornton Bay Projects Group, Thames-Coromandel District Council, NZTA and local iwi, Ngāti Tamaterā. 


Following on from this project, Fatu and Janet embarked on further conversations for other public art projects that would involve Te Puru school students and Thornton Bay residents. 


An opportunity arose when a large Totara log was donated to Te Puru School by Wilson Bay Farms. Janet and Fatu immediately thought this would be ideal for a second carving project - the creation of a pou whenua to be installed on the Te Puru School grounds. 


The whakatauki (Māori proverb) underpinning Te Puru School is: Whakatupuria nga ika iti i roto i a matou wai marino "To let all young fish grow strong in our calm waters", to which this new public art project speaks to. 


“By doing artworks that are in their own environment and working with significant artists, they get to really connect with their local environment, they get to have pride in it, especially when they contribute to it,” explains Janet. 


The designs for the pou whenua, which will be installed just inside the school grounds by the bus bay, have an overarching theme of Kotahitanga. Kotahitanga is the Māori concept of togetherness, identifying as one, extending awhina (support) to everyone, and receiving the same in return. 


To portray this, the pou whenua will have 3 distinct parts. The top third is to be carved by Darin Jenkins and will incorporate the Māori ancestry of the area. Darrin is a Thames-based artist who has created significant carvings and sculptures, including one by the Kauaeranga River Bridge and the one preceding the Kopu Bridge. He is Head Carver at UkiProducts44, the business he runs from the ‘Big Red Shed’ in Thames, producing contemporary and traditional style Māori carvings. 


The middle third will be carved by Fatu Feu’u and will incorporate elements of Pasifika design and stories. And the bottom third will be carved by Paul Silvester, and will encompass European/Pakeha elements. Paul is a Thames-based mural artist and designer, and Chairperson of the Thames Public Art Trust. Six male students (12 - 13 yrs old) from Te Puru School who have shown interest in increasing their carving skills, will be assisting Paul to carve the bottom section. 


All three of the artists involved are giving their time voluntarily and local iwi, Ngāti Tamaterā have formally blessed the Totara log and approved the design concepts, before the carving of the pou whenua commences. With the support of the Thames-Coromandel District Council - Creative Communities Scheme funds have been allocated for the installation of the finished pou whenua, by Watsons Engineering. 


In addition to the carving, a mural has also been planned which will be installed on the wall behind the pou whenua. The mural will follow the same theme of Kotahitanga and is being designed by Fatu and Janet. This will allow more students to be involved in the art making process, with each class being assigned a section of the mural to paint.  


Janet is thrilled that the students will be able to be involved with another meaningful public art project. 


“Fatu has been very involved in the prevention of youth suicide. This is how the whole concept came about. We were discussing what we could do as a community to help bring those statistics down.


“We hope that by working alongside established artists and other adults, the students will start to build connections and resilience. Art is a great medium for strengthening children and increasing a sense of belonging.


“We’re really pleased to have the Creative Communities Scheme help bring this project to life. It certainly will be a combined effort of many people, and we’re looking forward to unveiling the completed pou whenua and mural to the public later this year”.


The Te Puru School pou whenua carving and mural project is set to be completed by the end of 2020, with the recent lockdown restrictions delaying the start of the project. 


We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the project as it happens, and share details of the unveiling later this year. Stay tuned! 

Contact info:




Make your creative dreams a reality with local funding

Have you been daydreaming about a creative project during lockdown and wondering how to make it a reality?

Join us at the Creative Coromandel AGM 2021

A unique opportunity to learn about Creative Coromandel

Coromandel artists embrace NZ Made Products Facebook Page

We chatted with a few local artists from around the Peninsula who generously shared their experiences

First pARTner Up artist mentoring programme ends with a ‘Flourish’

'Flourish' special event celebrates first pARTner Up programme

Meet our Artists: Whangamata hosts the Easter Open Studio Trail

Arts Collective Whangamata hosts annual Easter Open Studio Trail

New arts collective springs into action in the Tairua Valley

New arts collective brings together three communities

Calling local artists interested in being a Mentor for pARTner Up

Apply now to be a Mentor for pARTner Up 2021-2022

Bounty Store honours Matariki with fundraising art exhibition

Q & A with Fiona Cameron, owner of Bounty Store in Thames

Applications now open for pARTner Up 2021/2022

Take your creative practice to the next level with pARTner Up - Apply Now!

Creative Mercury Bay to wind-up after 9 years of service

The performing arts trust is dissolving at the end of July 2021

Creative Coromandel launches new artist mentoring programme

Creative Coromandel welcomes new patrons

Visit the Coromandel’s best artists - Open Studios ArtsTour 2020

Book yourself a weekend visiting the Peninsula’s best artists - it's guaranteed to inspire!

Experience the visual arts at the Whangamata Big Arts Day Out

Whangamata Arts Collective hosts annual visual arts exhibition

New Whiti Fest busking festival celebrates the performing arts

New summer busking festival debuts in Whitianga on 7 Feb

We're Hiring! Job Vacancy for Administrator/Treasurer

Therapeutic Glimmer

Inspiring the next generation

Keeping in touch

Locals entertain via Bubble Bites 

THINK Coromandel Gig Guide to launch crowdfunding campaign

With support from the team at Creative Waikato, The Gig Guide is fundraising by running a Boosted crowdfunding campaign

A message from the Creative Coromandel team

New waharoa is a labour of love

Te Puru School embarks on new Māori carving project

Te Puru School brings Kotahitanga to the Thames Coast through Māori carving and mural project

Tuia - Encounters 250

Te Powhiri, Te Whanganui o Hei commemoration October 2019

Floyd Johnston

From Kuaotunu Kid to Kick**s Creative

The Back Room

A creative haven with a difference

Give it a Go with Wendy

Whitianga artist Wendy Walls' love of teaching is inspiring her to share her skills and help others find their inner creative.

ArohArt - A Labour of Love

A Thames centre celebrating and showcasing authentic Maori art is getting people talking and the owners are excited by the dicussion.

Off the Scale

A feast of talent on show at Whitianga Music Club

Anniversary sculpture taking shape

Star Waka project ready to launch

Ka Tito Au

Kupe's enthralling journey comes to Mercury Bay

Artful Performance Space

Barry Brickell Memorial Stage

Jandal On The Mandel

#jandalonthemandel on the Hauraki Rail Trail

Back Room Gallery showcases local art

Barry Brickell Play with Clay Day

Make your Escape to Mercury Bay

Hausmusik NZ presents "Cupid's Arrows"

Steampunk The Thames

Shining the light on local talent and performance art.

Diverse Displays at BADO

Creative showcase of local art at Whangamata's Big Arts Day Out.

Handle The Jandal

First sculpture for Hauraki Rail Trail

Showcase of Creativity

New website showcases creativity on the Coromandel.

New Home For Steampunk

New base for Steampunk The Thames

Auckland Youth Orchestra

May performance in Mercury Bay

Creative NZ arts funding

Coromandel artists apply for CNZ funding

CCS Funding Projects

Successful applicants for CCS funding announced.

Creative Spaces

The Coromandel, with many heritage buildings intact, lends itself well to adaptive reuse for the arts.

Dr Tracey Slaughter Talks

Free Short Story Talk at Waikato Museum

Steampunk Arts Vision

A vision for arts in the community

Coromandel Muso's

Are you a muso based in The Coromandel?

A Winter Visit

If you love the arts, you'll love The Coromandel this winter.

Who We Are

He Mana Toi Moehau Trust

Funding Creativity

CCS funding applications open this month.

A Funding Chat

Bring your coffee to our online arts funding forum.

People’s Choice Award

Pam Mundell announced winner 2018 Mercury Bay Art Escape award.

Hub for Creative Sector

Welcome to your Coromandel Arts & Creativity hub.

New Members Wanted

Mercury Bay Art Escape 2019 call for new artists & groups.

A Buzz of Creativity

Arts celebrated across the Peninsula

The Back Room

A creative haven with a difference

Ask Where I’m Local

A visual art exhibition in Coromandel Town.

Coro Summer Fest

Everything a festival ought to be

ArtStation presents a creative feast

Tuia Stage showcasing Coromandel’s best

Open Invitation to Funding Hui

Workshop to help artists understand the grant application process

Coromandel Peninsula artists embrace NZ Made Products Facebook Page during lockdown

We chatted with a few local artists from around the Peninsula who generously shared their experiences

First pARTner Up artist mentoring programme ends with a ‘Flourish’

'Flourish' special event celebrates first pARTner Up programme

THINK Coromandel Gig Guide to launch crowdfunding campaign

With support from the team at Creative Waikato, The Gig Guide is fundraising by running a Boosted crowdfunding campaign

Street Art Festival In March

Mercury Bay Art Escape commemorate Tuia 250 Encounters with Street Art.