Living-room legends

Humans share stories in countless ways: singing or speaking, the written word, paintings, and more. But Dave Hakaraia from the School of Design is using a more unique method, sharing Māori myths and legends through custom-made furniture.

Matariki, 3D printed recycled plastic and discarded offcuts of timber veneer.

Dave’s furniture designs—which include lamps, tables, and everything in between—use traditional Māori building materials and design techniques to tell traditional Māori stories. The table (pictured right), is made from celery pine (tanekaha), used by Māori for weaponry and boats, and traditional binding techniques, to tell the story of how Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother) were separated from a tight embrace by their sons to create the world we know today. Their struggle to stay together is shown in the design of the table, with the top and bottom pieces straining to stay connected in the centre but parting at the edges.

Dave, who is of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Pāoa descent, says he chose furniture as his storytelling medium because it’s something in use every day, allowing people to connect and engage with the narrative as part of our normal life and encouraging more widespread knowledge and understanding of Māori stories and culture. Dave also mixes cutting-edge 3D fabrication techniques with more traditional design elements to create his distinct design approach.

“Every part of the design has meaning,” Dave says. “I wanted to help create a contemporary Māori visual language, combining tradition with modern design technologies and techniques.”

For Dave, sharing knowledge is the most important part of his work—both in design and teaching. He works closely with several contemporary Māori artists, including artist/designer Rangi Kipa, and he also mentors Māori and Pasifika students and students from low-decile schools.

“Giving back is so important—I wouldn’t be where I am without my mentors,” he says.