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Crafting Aotearoa, edited by Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai and Damian Skinner


Crafting Aotearoa is an impressive tome. The landmark publication takes another look at craft and its broader cultural role.


A major new history of craft that spans three centuries of making and thinking in Aotearoa and the wider Moana (Pacific). Paying attention to Pākehā, Māori and Pasifika, and old and new migrant makers and their works, this book is a history of craft understood as an idea that shifts and changes over time.


Within the pages 13 indigenous Moana Oceania languages are included. As the Editors state in their acknowledgements, "this project (is) one of many voices and perspectives".


Crafting Aotearoa is broad in its reach, visually rich and includes a wealth of historical images as well as new photography. It falls somewhere between a coffee table book and a scholarly examination of craft in Aotearoa and the wider Pacific.

At the heart of the book lies the relationships between Pākehā, Māori and Pasifika practices that, at different times and for different reasons, have been described the term 'craft'. It tells the previously untold story of craft in Aotearoa, so that connections, as well as differences and tensions, can be identified and explored.

Eight chapters explore craft in a variety of contexts - from tourism to beliefs, concepts of belonging, and craft in the contemporary.


The book goes on to propose a new idea of craft - one that acknowledges the three histories of making, as well as diverse community perspectives towards objects and their uses and meanings.


The impressive hardback features a simply stunning debossed cover of artist Nika Hindin's aute (bark cloth). The aute is named Kuaka, after the godwit, whose annual 11,000km migration mirrors the voyages of Māori from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. The cover begs you to pick the book up, to stroke it, to lift the cover and discover what other treasures lie within.


There are detailed notes at the end of the book, as well as a detailed further reading section which is helpfully sectioned into topics. The book also offers links to short articles of more craft stories through Auckland Museum. The Editors and contributors all get brief bios, and the objects introduced in the book are also neatly catalogued at the back of the book. Image credits and a detailed index are also included, making this an accessible book that begs you to dive deeper.


The long journey that eventually led to the book began in 2012. It is clear that everyone involved in the creation of it over the years cares deeply about craft, about inclusion, and about our shared artistic history. A stunning book about the important cultural history of making in Aotearoa and the wider Moana.


Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Te Papa Press, RRP $85.00

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