A Paraparaumu man who has made an extensive contribution to the craft of carving has been recognised in the New Year Honours list.

Owen Mapp has become a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori carving and bone art.

He has carved bone, whale ivory, jade and other materials for 49 years with his work featuring a large number of exhibitions and publications in New Zealand and abroad.

Owen, who became one of the few non-Japanese expert practitioners of Netsuke carving, also played a key role in the revitalisation of Māori carving in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


The recognition was "a great compliment not only for me but to all my carving colleagues, particularly Donn Salt who has been carving as long as I and who I have shared many concepts and exhibitions with".

"If my parents were still alive they would be absolutely amazed and thrilled, especially as they had always encouraged me in my pursuits including art.

"My wife Hanne, who takes care of all my promotion, photography and lecture organisation, feels included in this recognition and proud.

"My five daughters are thrilled no doubt.

"I trust that other carvers will in time receive similar honours."

Owen started bone and jade carving because of his background in archaeology and museum work.

As a 14-year-old he went on an archaeological dig at the Wairau Bar, an early Polynesian site, under Dr Roger Duff, from Canterbury Museum.

He worked at The Dominion Museum [Te Papa] under Dr Terry Barrow, then aged 18, worked in Sweden's National Museum.

Owen enjoyed researching Māori collections in various European museums and, after a brief stint in the British Museum, returned home in about 1968.

Unable to land a museum job in Wellington, he started carving whale teeth "out of boredom and frustration".

Initially influenced by Māori artefacts, he developed his own concepts and refined his own handmade tools [gravers/scrapers] and his hobby turned into a profession.

He has always immersed in Māori culture and gives special credit to his kaumatua Wirimu Kerekere, Selwyn Hovell and Pine Taiapa, all Ngāti Porou.

Owen was head-hunted by Whitireia Polytechnic to teach carving and design, which he did part time for 28 years, and has recently tutored on the Moriori marae in the Chatham Islands "which was an honour".

Owen, who has presented lecture papers at overseas conferences on New Zealand carving, said using hand tools was meditative.

"My ancestors thousands of years ago carved bone using hand gravers of flint so I have this connection through many cultures and time periods.

"Carving bone/ivory has put me in contact with museum people, Māori culture, other carvers around the world, academic researchers, teaching facilities, collectors including royalty, Chinese jade carvers and my ongoing research all of which has enriched my life and my family's lives.

He endeavours to "make objects that have a lasting quality, tell a story and are beautiful in themselves from my perspective".