College carvings refurbished

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With Damian Peeti and the refurbished carving of Tawhaki are Charlie Culshaw, Brooklyn Culshaw, Darian Haami-Pethig and Thomas Kairau, some of the students who lent a hand on the restoration project.

By Mick Jensen

Damian Peeti, with help from half a dozen students, has repaired, refurbished and repainted the carvings that have stood at the entrance of Ashburton College’s whare for more than two decades.

The carvings were crafted by the late Vince Leonard, a master carver, and will be re-erected and displayed in all their glory for the start of the new academic year.

Mr Leonard started the carvings in the mid 1990s and they were unveiled in 1997.

They are made from totara, are very heavy and intricately carved.

An impressive carving of Tawhaki, a celebrated hero of Polynesia, stands in the centre of things.

Mr Peeti said he had been among a team of volunteers assisting Mr Leonard on the original carving project and was proud to have been asked to come back to tidy them up.

“I’m not a master carver like Vince was, but I’ve worked through the process of repairing the carvings, reinforcing areas where cracks have occurred and also in sourcing the right colours for the painting.”

Totara wood shavings and glue had been used to fill cracks and gaps and the original maker’s plaque had been cleaned and polished.

Mr Peeti said students had lent an enthusiastic hand over the last four or five months, with boys helping with painting, lifting and tidying up the carvings inside the whare, which has been converted into a workshop, and the girls painting and offering encouragement from outside.

He said it had been “a pleasure to work alongside the students” and he was very happy with what had been achieved.

“Vince kept an eye on the carvings over the years, but this is the first time they have all been taken down and refurbished.”

It had taken 20 teachers to move the bigger carvings around in the workshop and a crane and hoist would be used again to put everything back in place.

“This project honours the work of master carver Vince Leonard, who passed far too early,” said Mr Peeti.