Raiding party drama told in grandfather’s woodcarving

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A Maori carving exploring a dramatic moment of raids and warfare has been restored by Steve Solomon, of Queenstown.

The carving was originally created by his grandfather, Alan Solomon, in 1984.
‘‘He helped to raise me and started me on my own carving journey.’’

Solomon began carving when he was 18 and he recalled seeing evidence of his grandfather working with wood since before he was born.

Restoring the carving was a reminder of family, as his mother, Beverly Peek, father, Michael Solomon and uncle, Tere Solomon, all assisted his grandfather with the original work.

The carving had survived fairly well considering its age.
‘‘It wasn’t too bad, some of the paint had dulled off a little bit, and there were a few chips and scratches on it.’’
‘‘So it just needed a bit more vibrancy, a bit of a freshen-up.’’

Information provided by the Upper Clutha Historical Records Society uncovered the background to the carving.

Society president Graham Dixon said they found a letter from Mr Solomon offering the carving to the local community.

The carving was originally displayed at the Wanaka Area School in Tenby St, then displayed at Wanaka Primary School, then put into storage when the school moved to Ironside Dr.

The letter outlined an ill-fated raid by Te Puoho of Ngati Tama.
In 1836, Te Puoho hatched a plan to take about 100 raiders on an epic journey from the West Coast through the Haast Past and across Wanaka, Hawea and Central Otago, aiming to launch a surprise attack on Ngai Tahu forces on Ruapuke Island, near Stewart Island.
The journey became a desperate mission as the warriors faced several skirmishes on the way and suffered hunger and exhaustion.
On the final raid Te Puoho was killed by musket then beheaded. His would-be raiders were taken prisoner.

The restored carving will be placed on a wall in the Wanaka Library to act as guardian over the Mana Whenua collection.

Historic journey . . . The story of Te Puoho of Ngati Tama is explored in a Maori carving created by Alan Solomon. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON