Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Puanga Kairau


  • Medium: kauri, pāua (New Zealand abalone)
  • Size: 29.5 × 4 × 4.5 inches
  • Reference Code: K71103

When Puanga (Rigel) rises over the inland mountain ranges the people of Taranaki recognize the beginning of a new year. It signals a time to acknowledge those who have passed on and recognise the accomplishments of the community. Puanga provides a symbol of new potential and growth in a saying Puanga Kairau (Puanga of abundance).

This piece represents the concept of Puanga in the form of a tumu waka (canoe hull). There are two strong notions represented here, on one side the waka (canoe) depicts four figures carved in traditional Taranaki style. These figures work in unison, towards a coordinated plan for gathering kai when food sources were scarce and the activities of the community were largely limited to indoor pursuits, of learning, of discussion and planning. It was therefore the value of winter’s tasks that set the foundation for summer’s industry.

Below the four figures is an open doorway linking the activities that sustain life to the opposite domain of the past and that which has been lost. The lone figure portrays those lost to the community over the previous year. They are carried within a representation of a waka tupapaku (burial chest). These receptacles were used to retain the remains of the dead in safety and protection. The single star above the figure is Puanga rising alone with its burden of sorrow, balanced against the anticipation of future achievement. This waka is for the protection of those who have passed on, yet it carries within it the aspirations of new pathways.

—Hemi Sundgren

Featured in the book Te Kahui o Matariki (Contemporary Māori Art of Matariki).

Hemi Sundgren

Hemi Sundgren


Te Ati Awa, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Raukawa

(1975- )

Hemi’s work is underpinned by a strong cultural base and is exploring new forms and techniques and materials to develop new interpretations. He is a talented emerging artist who’s work has been exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. Hemi’s work as a participating and practising artist is only one of the many roles he currently fulfils. He is an accomplished carver, researcher of whakapapa tribal history, waiata (classical song), ruruku (classical incantaion) and traditional oral histories, particular to the tribes he belongs to.