7. Waka Waewae – Phil Bonham

Medium: Totara

Size: 620mm high x 2600mm long x 1500mm wide

Price: $3,500


“I was gifted a small totara while it was still standing close to a house. When it fell onto its branches it had the look of a lithe, strong being, ready to walk away. Canoe, vehicle, voyage, navigator, ancestry origin, container, waka huia, and spiritual conveyance – these are some of the associations that one can envision when thinking of waka. These thoughts were in my mind while contemplating the making of this sculpture. It could be called waka tū, or waka haere, or waka waewae rākau… but it was the leg-like branches that first struck me when seeing the log on the ground that gave me the idea for a waka on legs. So, Waka Waewae it is. There is no historical precedence for the name of this canoe. It is merely an indicator of a canoe with legs. The viewers can imagine their own use that this vessel may have.

“In carving wood I am always interested in the type of wood, the natural qualities that are innate in each different species, and the gesture or growth forces that are within it and expressed on the surface. I almost always start by leaving untouched the places under the bark that are too beautiful to touch with chainsaw or chisels… the parts that give me inspiration into the overall concept. This wood is totara… the wood of choice for Māori for most of their carving, including waka. It is easy to carve, lightweight, and yet still holds a good clean edge when adzed or chiselled. This tree is just a youngster and so does not have much of the durable pink heartwood of a forest giant, but it is still a beautiful timber to carve. It is because of the young age that it is treated with a safe preservative that will ensure it lasts outdoors for a long time.”

Phil Bonham was born and raised in Takapuna, Auckland, and gained a BFA at the University of Hawaii. Bonham works in a range of mediums, with his first solo exhibition in Honolulu containing drawings, prints, paintings, and sculpture. Bonham returned to New Zealand and worked full time as a professional potter for 10 years, then as an art/craft teacher for the last 20 years. Bonham continues to exhibit and have his work represented in private collections in New Zealand and Hawaii.

Also see Phil’s other artwork for the 2012 trail, Waka Kauri and his artwork for the 2014 trail, Waka Ngaru.