From carving student to guide

Te Puia guide, Haupiri Tawhai.

Shying away from manuhiri (visitors) by positioning himself in the middle of the wood carving school has completely changed for Te Puia guide, Haupiri Tawhai.


Now confidently leading manuhiri around of Te Puia, Haupiri says what he enjoys most about his role is meeting people from around the world, who are genuinely interested in Māori culture and its people.


As a descendent of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Ngāi Tūhoe, Haupiri started as a carving apprentice in 1991. After graduating in 1993, Haupiri remained at NZMACI with a role at the forefront of the carving school.


“Interacting with manuhiri at the school spurred me towards my role as a guide.


“It taught me interpersonal skills and brought me out of my shell, granting me the ability to be comfortable with my own people and people in general.”


A guide now for over 20 years, Haupiri says the exchange of information between manuhiri and himself is often thought-provoking.


“Now and again, I get those difficult questions that make me think differently and challenge my knowledge, giving me the opportunity to widen my understanding of Māori culture and its people.”


Haupiri says he still carves as a hobby, mainly for whānau and friends.


“I learnt to carve for my whānau, iwi and hapū and am thankful to NZMACI for the skills to pass on to my people.”


Coming from Omaio Bay in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Haupiri says Te Puia will always be home.


“My wife Carla and I met and married here, and I’ve learnt so much from this place – I’m thankful for what the people here have done for me.”