The World of the Mauri.:
A Modern Indigenous Perspective
Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard
Maori in the history of our country from creation stories and world view to weaving carving clothing through to issues of the present times.”
Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard: Tribal Affiliation: Ngati Rangiwewehi, Ngati Pahipoto, Ngati Raukawa, Te Arawa, Mataatua, Tainui
To understand Karl as a Maori artist, it is important to understand the background from which he has come from. Therefore when studying New Zealand and in particular some of the modern Māori artists, many are driven in their art by their self discovery of whom they are.
Karl has been extremely fortunate of being secure in his identity in knowing who he is. When you examine his ancestry, it is easy to see that both his paternal and maternal sides have been instrumental in influencing his induction into the all things Māori especially the traditional arts. Therefore although he may say that he chose the arts of his Māori people, it is more likely it has chosen him!
Karl paternal uncle Pakake Leonard (Ngāti Rangiwewehi) was an influential elder and carver in the 1960/70’s and the first Director of the NZ Māori Arts & Crafts Institute (now known as Te Puia). His maternal uncle Kaka Niao (Ngāti Pahipoto) was a renowned carver of the Ngāti Tarāwhai School, so it is no surprise in 1988 he put his hand to carving. Both his grandmothers Piarimu Kereua Ngāheu and Ranginui Parewahawaha Teimana Leonard were weavers. However his paternal grandmother Ranginui, lived with his family until he was 13 and it is she who played a pivotal role in his passion for weaving. Karlrecollects at the age of 5 that she was weaving a traditional floor mat at the age of 98 years and it is she whom taught him to plait and weave sedge grass into a continuous four plait strip to decorate glass bottles.
Years later at the age of 112 she critiqued his 3rd basket. He attests the depth of his knowledge in weaving to the encouragement and sharing of the elderly women of Tūhourangi/Ngāti Wāhiao whom he worked with as a guide and weaver at the NZ Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua from the early 1980’s to 2000. Besides tukutuku (traditional wall panels) and kete (baskets), his areas of specialty are the piupiu (dancing skirt), poi tāniko (dancing percussion instrument), kākahu (cloaks) and combinations thereof.