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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1 (May 1, 1930)

Home of Maori Arts and Crafts

Home of Maori Arts and Crafts.

The centre of interest lies close to the lake end of the village. Here, around a large open space, are clustered several buildings of exceptional interest. The most outstanding of them is the Maori meeting house, a building of broad dimensions and a fine specimen of Maori architecture and carving. Close by it is a smaller building, finished like a pa at the front, but otherwise entirely European in style. To this place you must pay a visit, for, fascinating as you will find Ohinemutu in other respects, you have here an attraction unique and unparalleled in the Dominion, since it is the home of the only institution in the country devoted to the active encouragement of Maori Arts and Crafts. It is under the general control of a Board of that name, and is directed by a man whom it is a joy to meet, namely, Mr. Hamilton, whose father's monumental studies of Maori art in every shape and form are regarded as one of our national treasures.

During my last visit, I had a long chat with Mr. Hamilton, and spent some time in wandering around the workshop. In 1926, largely owing to the efforts of Sir Apirana Ngata, parliament passed a special Act with the aim, in the words of one of its supporters, the Hon. Mr. J. G. Coates, “of making a real move forward in the preservation of something which, in a few years, will be a lost art.” It was intended to set on foot a properly equipped school with quite an elaborate syllabus, so as to give the young Maoris that thorough training in the arts and crafts of their fathers, which they would have page 53 received as a matter of course in the more leisurely days gone by. Lack of finance, however, and some doubt as to whether pupils so trained would be able to make a living out of it, are factors which have hindered the development of the original plans. The school, if it can be called such, is at present leading a hand-to-mouth existence, concentrating on carving only, and limiting itself entirely to fulfilling orders actually received. Even so, much valuable work is accomplished.