MAORI ART – CULTURE AREAS
In different parts of New Zealand carvers tended to conform to characteristic local styles of carving. These local styles are consistent enough to justify the use of the term “culture areas”. At the same time, within each culture area there would be considerable variation. Quite often one carver would develop an individual style of his own, and the student must beware of treating a limited number of specimens as typical of an area when those specimens may simply be the work of one man. This is particularly true of nineteenth-century work, where the release from conventions led to some rather extraordinary designs. It must also be remembered that carvers sometimes travelled long distances. Thus, Arawa work may be found in North Auckland, and so on. On the evidence available to us we may divide carving styles into two main groups, the first comprising Northland, Hauraki, part of the Waikato coast, and Taranaki, and the second comprising the remainder of the country. At first sight the grouping of Taranaki and Northland may be puzzling, but as the Ngati Awa were an important element in the populations of both districts there are historical reasons for the similarity of styles.
Within the first group there are smaller culture areas in Northland, Hauraki, and Taranaki. The second group comprises Te Arawa, Tainui, Matatua, Ngati Porou, Kahungunu, Tuwharetoa, Wanganui, and various smaller, less determinate culture areas. In some parts of New Zealand there are too few surviving examples of carving to enable us to define any characteristic style.