School programme

Stevei Houkāmau - He Kākano

6 June 2020 - 8 November 2020

Years 1-13

Free ONLINE School Programme

This programme is freely available as an online resource to be used in your classrooms. You can view the exhibition as a virtual experience and look more closely at some of Stevei’s uku (clay) vessels using 3D technology. 

About the programme

He Kākano is a solo exhibition by ceramicist Stevei Houkāmau who was born and raised in Cannons Creek Porirua.  Stevei enrolled to study Tā Moko for a bachelor of Māori Visual Arts but she also fell in love with uku (clay). The passion she has for both art forms can be seen in her work. She explains that she ‘started to use clay like it was skin and my carving tools are my tattoo machine or uhi.’

There is no recorded Māori customary tradition of working with clay in Aotearoa/New Zealand. But in the 1980s, a small group of artists formed the collective Ngā Kaihanga Uku and they started to create uku/clay artworks based on Kaupapa Māori. This new art practice has since grown into an established art-form and recognised creative expression for Māori. The fact that uku comes from the earth – the earth mother Papatūānuku – provides an ancient connection and good reason to link ceramic art with Māori culture.

Many of Stevei’s white raku clay vessels are based upon Māori ipu forms. Ipu is the word for a vessel, container or bowl. A hollow hue (gourd) was the most common traditional storage container, once it had hardened and dried with the inside seeds removed. Kakano/seeds are a symbol for potential and Stevei has themes of connections/ties to the past, present and future in her work and across the Pacific. What do your students think these vessels should contain?

Programme Ideas

  • LOOK closely and move around the 3D photographs of Stevei’s work (explore the  3D versions  below by using your computer mouse or track pad to rotate and zoom and and out) and try to identify the designs which have been inspired by traditional kōwhaiwhai painting – generally associated with the tāhuhu (ridgepole) and heke (rafters) of wharenui

  • FIND out more about the different names and meanings of design combinations (repetitions and rotations) of kōwhaiwhai, especially the koru motif, as well as the curving manawa line

  • DISCOVER where Stevei has used and adapted the chiselled cuts (haehae ridges/grooves and pākati notches) of customary Māori carving in her work and where you can see her use of Sāmoan tātau designs

  • WATCH the videos below of Stevei helping people to work with clay at Pātaka and sharing aspects of her working process and practice:

Whenua Tipu Kāinga, 2019

Tuwhakairiora, 2020

Kanoi Rua, 2020

He Kākano ahau, 2019

  • TRY some clay work : – MAKE a pinch pot using a a ball of clay (or Modelling Clay and Air Dry Clay) the size of a tennis ball. Push your thumb down into the middle (but not through the bottom), forming a hole. Continue to make the hole bigger by pinching the sides with your thumb and forefinger until a bowl shape is made. Use a pencil or kebab stick to create surface lines, spirals and koru. – MAKE a coil pot using a flat circle of clay as a base and then rolling out (very evenly) coils as thick as your finger to coil around the edge of the base - one coil layer at a time - to build up the walls. Before you stick a coil to the base or onto another coil, score (with a fork) and then ‘slip’ (with your finger dipped in water) around the edge of the base and along the top of each coil before you add them on top. This will help everything stick together. You can leave the coils as your decoration of gently smooth/smear/blend the outside coil bumps to create a smooth surface to decorate. – MAKE a small square slab tile as a base to etch or ‘carve’ into the surface some designs based on kaupapa Māori with sticks/pencils or clay tools. Leave the clay to air dry for 2-3 days. 

Curriculum Links

  • The Arts, Visual Arts: Students will investigate the purpose of objects and images from past and present Māori culture and identify the contexts in which they were made, viewed and valued L3. Students will explore some art-making conventions, applying knowledge of elements and selected principles through the use of materials and processes.

  • Social Sciences: Students will understand how cultural practices reflect and express people’s customs, traditions and values.


Contact us

Email or phone (04) 237 3551 if you'd like us to tailor a programme to meet your learning goals.