Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Tihei Mauri Ora • Māui’s Toki / Adze


  • Medium: tōtara, kauri, pounamu (New Zealand jade)
  • Size: 34 × 9 × 4 inches
  • Reference Code: K30601

This toki (adze) has a relationship with Māui, who was the eponymous ancestor of the Māori people in New Zealand.

According to the people of Ngati Mahaki ki Makawhio, Māui’s toki was called “Tihei Mauri Ora” and on his arrival in Aotearoa. He landed at Porakiraki (Bruce Bay) in his waka ‘Mahnui’.

Prior to his landing, Māui had to slay two taniwha (powerful sea elements) at either end of the bay. Mako-horo-pekapeka was at the southern point named Here-taniwha, while Mako-tipua was situated at the northern point, which was called Makawhio. Maui slew the two taniwha with his toki, “Tihei Mauri Ora”.

Māui and his deeds were well known throughout Te Moana nui a Kiwa (the Pacific) by the Polynesian people, and according to the Ngati Mahaki hapu, Māui’s first landing place was at Porakiraki.

This adze form, Tihei Mauri Ora, stands prominent and is the symbol of Māui’s prowess, while the two taniwha, Mako-horo-pekapeka and Mako-tipua, are enslaved within. The unpredictable nature of the western currents of the South Island (Te Tai Poutini) is the underlying feature of this composition. The carving is further enhanced with the prestigious pounamu jade.

An oft-repeated whakatauki (proverb) of Māori “Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu” is said to have the meaning “Although small, it is the most precious”, and this whakatauki is spoken reverently when referring to one’s most important taonga (treasure). To the Māori, pounamu was (and still is) such a taonga. Because pounamu is sourced in the rohe (tribal area) of the Ngati Mahaki people, they became the kaitiaki (caretakers) of this important asset. By using pounamu in Tihei Mauri Ora, it recognizes the importance of this taonga to my people.

This adze form acknowledges the functional importance to Māori, through the art of canoe and house construction. (Without the adze, it would have been impossible to build houses or canoes). The binding is representative to remind us, that for the toki to become a practical tool, it needs to be bound to its handle in a symbiotic partnership.

Tihei Mauri Ora has personal significance. One of my hapu (sub-tribes) is Ngati Mahaki ki Makawhio. About 150 years ago, my people, although then known by another ancestral tribal name, occupied the Makawhio Pa. Through colonization and isolation, the pa (fortified village) was abandoned and fell into disrepair over time. This year has seen the Ngati Mahaki people commence constructing their own marae at Porakiraki, named “Te tauraka waka a Māui” (Māui’s landing place). I have been commissioned to create the carvings for the wharenui (meeting house) for the marae. Such a project has been a lifelong dream of mine. I will be representing many tupuna (ancestors) through the carvings, which will tell stories to our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

Carvings being created for our wharenui have inspired the adze form. This carving depicts the functional use by its form (adze) and recognizing my people, who were well known as boat builders.

“The light behind illuminates what may be hidden within.”

Fayne Robinson

Fayne Robinson


Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Apa Ki Te Ra To, Ngāti Porou

(1964- )

Fayne was born and raised in Hokitika (Te Tai Poutini) on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. He graduated from the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua in 1984. After another four years as a graduate carver, he tutored in Hokitika before returning to Rotorua to further his knowledge of carving. Trained in wananga (traditional schooling), he is now developing his own contemporary style.