Finely carved vessels such as waka huia (treasure boxes) were used to hold traditional Māori precious objects and treasured personal adornments like pounamu hei tiki, huia feathers and combs. The finely carved boxes signalled the importance of the items within and the status of the owner. Māori and Pākehā owners used waka huia of various kinds through the 19th and early 20th Century to hold various items such as sewing kits, jewellery or heirlooms and large numbers of carved and decorated boxes were produced as tourist art.
This waka huia was carved by Les Mackie in 1914. Mackie, a Pākehā collector of Māori artefacts, he settled with his family in Otākeho, south Taranaki where he managed a local dairy factory. He was a keen carver and developed his own precise style and techniques based on examples that he observed. His work was judged good enough to be included in the New Zealand Pavilion at the Wembley Commonwealth Exhibition, London, in 1924-1925.
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