News | 6 July 2023
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Sharing stories of whānau and wāhine through clay

Stevei Houkāmau (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Apanui), is a big believer that when you shake things up, ask for change – and for an organisation to listen, you have to be there, to help, to educate, and to move it forward.

Person wearing a green shirt and glasses, sitting infront of a colourful patterned wall.

Stevei is a renowned uku (clay) artist, who carves her works with distinctive markings. She is the inaugural Toi Pōneke Arts Centre Māori Artist in Residence 2023, with a place at the table to ensure the space is safe and functions properly for Māori and Pasifika artists.

“If a place is safe for Māori and Pasifika, it is a safe space for all cultures, because then we acknowledge mātauranga Māori and manaakitanga – those things that hold people to how they treat each other.”

Artwork in a gallery.
Image by John Paul Pochin.

The Council has operated Toi Pōneke Arts Centre since 2005. Since its inception, Toi Pōneke has supported hundreds of artists and organisations, through the provision of 24-hour access to subsidised studios, rehearsal rooms, exhibition space, resources, programmes, and more.

Growing up in Cannons Creek in a Māori and Pasifika community, and spending much time with whānau up the East Coast, has strongly influenced Stevei’s work.

“My upbringing has influenced, especially, the surface design of my work, a mix of Māori and Pasifika patterns. My clay markings are the visual language that speaks to my whānau kōrero, kaupapa, and my whakapapa,” says Stevei.

Collection of clay artwork.

“Coming from a line of Māori chieftainesses [including Hinemaurea, Hinerupe, and Ruataupare], my work also brings out the stories of the wāhine in my family, the influences, and the mana they held. It is knowledge I will pass on to the next generations.”

Part of Stevei’s residency sees her curating the Toi Pōneke Gallery exhibition Te Matapihi (24 June–21 July), which coincides with Matariki. The exhibition brings together a group of talented, established, mainly Māori and Pasifika artists, and also features her own work.

Watch Stevei Houkāmau’s interview on YouTube. Visit to find out more.