A top indigenous artist being hosted in Rotorua will return home to Canada permanently wearing a piece of New Zealand tradition.

Klatle-Bhi, a Squamish artist, is known in Vancouver for creating some of the world's most unique pieces of art and is being hosted by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute for three weeks as part of the World Indigenous Business Forum earlier this month.

Klatle-Bhi (pronounced cloth-bay) has fallen in love with Māori culture and yesterday took his connection to Māori one step further by getting his first tā moko.

His tā moko was created by the institute's artist, Jacob Tautari, at Te Puia, and covers his upper left arm and shoulder.

Advertisement

It marks his time spent engaging with Māori artists and creating new wood carving pieces.

It is not only his first tā moko, but also his first tattoo.

Traditional tattooing in his own tribe in Vancouver was lost for some time and is now undergoing a resurgence.

The inspiration for his piece incorporates Māori designs with two significant figures for the Canadian artist, the raven – his tribal guardian that also represents his late grandmother's ancestry and the fish hook – which represents his love for the river and fishing for salmon to provide for his family.

"There's been a real spiritual and cultural exchange here, I really feel like a part of the family. There's nothing like this place in the world," Klatle-Bhi said.

"I always knew that I wanted a tattoo or a moko as a young man but I didn't really know who I was back then. I'm positive that what I am doing here and now is what I've been waiting my whole life for," he said.

Klatle-Bhi said he found the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute to be "on the cutting edge" of how you can be self-sufficient, maintain your own culture and pass it on and also share with the public and with the world.

"The facilities are world class and something the people should be very proud of because I know our people back home would love to have a place like this."

While at the institute, he is being hosted by the carving school's foundry head caster, Eugene Kara and stone and bone carving lead tutor, Stacy Gordine.

Klatle-Bhi attended the World Indigenous Business Forum, which was held between October 9 and 12. The forum welcomed more than 500 indigenous businesses from over 25 countries.

Advertisement