“Clay is mud with more togetherness. I can bugger the vision, reconstitute the mud, and start again.”
Wi served in Vietnam and as a prison officer at Wellington’s Wi Tako prison before becoming a self-taught carver. While working as a social worker, he developed an interest in clay as an alternative to wood for teaching boys in reform institutions how to carve. In his own work, clay offered more freedom than stone or wood. In 1992, he graduated from the Whitirea Polytechnic in Porirua City with a Diploma in Craft Design and completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Wanganui Polytechnic in 1999. He is currently a resident artist at Te Whare Wananga o Awanauiarangi in Whakatane, New Zealand. Now known for his ceramic work, he prefers a “low-tech” approach: hand building, sawdust firing, and incorporating Māori and Pacific design elements. He is keen to develop, with other members of Nga Kaihanga Uku (the national Māori clayworkers’ organization), a solid kaupapa (purpose) for Māori clay workers. He has participated in many exhibitions, including “NZ Choice” (1994) in Santa Ana, California; National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1995) in Harare; “Haka” (1997-98), which toured the United Kingdom, and “Kiwa-Pacific Connections” (2003) in Vancouver, Canada.
Excerpt from Manawa—Pacific Heartbeat, 2005.