Morgan Lee (Tainui – Te Akitai, Chinese, Pakeha), moved to the West Coast when she was eleven. She now lives in Christchurch and works as a Communications Advisor for Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. She talks here about her favourite piece of pounamu.
I received my pounamu as a koha from my mother on my 16th birthday. Although she is Pakeha, she has always encouraged my brothers and I to embrace our Maori heritage.
I’m not sure of the origins of my piece of pounamu but I love its dark colour.
It was carved by Jayme Anderson (Te Aupouri, Ngapuhi, Tuhoe), of Hokitika. Jayme has lived all his life in Napier but recently moved to Hokitika. He has a Diploma in Visual Art and Design from the Eastern Institute of Technology in the Hawke’s Bay; and while he has no formal apprenticeship, he has always been interested in the sculptural works of Henry Moore and the work of New Zealand jade carvers from the late 1970s. He always works in silver and gold.
My pounamu means a lot to me although to be honest, I didn’t wear it a lot when I first received it. The older I’ve become, the more I wear it. I have a much greater appreciation for it now.
I like to wear it to most Maori events as it helps me to feel more connected – whenever I wear it, I feel proud to be Maori. I do wear it at other times too but it really depends on the mood I am in.
My piece is carved in a Celtic design – actually a lot of Jayme’s pieces feature a similar inspiration; and interestingly, my Mum also got a tattoo that is based on a Celtic design. Her tattoo represents my two brothers and I, and our connection as a whanau. Mum said she always felt my piece of pounamu picked her – that of the pieces she looked at for me, this one ‘jumped out’ at her.
I remember my Mum and I took a trip to my godmother’s house in Ashburton once and when we arrived we were greeted by my godmother and her friend, who was a master carver. He kindly blessed my pounamu. That was a lovely experience. Afterwards I felt quite spiritually connected to my piece.
Mum and I have started a tradition – if for some reason I can’t have my pounamu with me, Mum will look after it for me. When I have it myself, I will often grab hold of it and rub it. I like to think it helps me connect to my Mum when I am away from home. If it feels warm then I know everything is alright.