Ngā Kaihanga Uku: Māori Clay Artists

A celebration of the revival and mana of Māori ceramic art.

By Baye Riddell

Publication date: October 2023
NZ RRP (incl. GST): $70
Extent: 256 pages
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-9951384-5-2

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The rise of an impressive ceramics movement is one of the more striking developments in contemporary Māori art. Clayworking and pottery firing was an ancient Pacific practice, but the knowledge had largely been lost by the ancestors of Māori before they arrived in Aotearoa. After the national clayworkers’ collective, Ngā Kaihanga Uku, was established in 1987, traditional ancestral knowledge and customs and connections with indigenous cultures with unbroken ceramic traditions helped shape a contemporary Māori expression in clay.

This book is the first comprehensive overview of Māori claywork, its origins, loss and revival. Richly illustrated, it introduces readers to the practices of the five founders of Ngā Kaihanga Uku and also surveys the work of the next generation.

Look inside Ngā Kaihanga Uku.


Review highlights

  • The Spinoff, Claire Mabey: “Ngā Kaihanga Uku: Māori Clay Artists was a revelation to me. The photography shines, and the project of capturing this history and these artists make reading book feel like an honour.”

  • Aotearoa New Zealand Review of Books, reviewed by Ngarino Ellis. “This book highlights the role of artists as trailblazers in Māori culture, looking back to look forward, as risk-takers and experimental in their practice. Their hands are dipped deep in red clay, beckoning us to come forth with them on their constant journeys of discovery. As Riddell reminds us: He aha te mea nui, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.”

  • Art New Zealand, reviewed by Don Abbott. “Illustrated with archival photography from the group’s various hui and wānanga, as well as a generous selection of work images, the book trances the development of the collective, but also of each discrete artist, seeing their individual sensibilities evolve in manifold directions.”

  • Home Magazine. “A luscious, invaluable introduction not just to how this school of creatives came to be but how te ao Māori can underpin a three-dimensional art discipline.”

  • RNZ Nine to Noon, reviewed by Paul Diamond. “It’s fascinating because this is about rediscovering a lost tradition . . . a reaching back.”

Author interviews

E-Tangata, Baye Riddell interviewed by Dale Husband.

RNZ Culture 101, Baye Riddell interviewed by Mark Amery.

Radio Waatea, Baye Riddell interviewed by Claudette Hauiti.

About the author

Baye Pewhairangi Riddell (Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare) became a full-time potter in 1974, the first Māori artist to commit to this profession. In 1986, with Manos Nathan, he was a co-founder of Ngā Kaihanga Uku, the national Māori clayworkers’ collective. In 1989 he and Nathan were awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to establish an exchange with Native American artists. He was awarded the Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Fellowship in 2011.