Jon Jeet draws on his combined Ngāti Maniapoto and Fijian Indian whakapapa in the creation of this new monumental corten steel toki form, which reflects his practice as a recognised pounamu carver and his family’s journey to Aotearoa New Zealand as indentured labourers. Traditionally, Māori shaped and used toki – a sharp adze-like form made from pounamu or stone – for a number of purposes, from gardening to rakau whakairo (wood carving). Today, the toki form is a symbol of strength and practicality; with He Toki Maitai Jeet pays homage to a humble yet crucial tool.
As well as its traditional function, the pounamu toki form is worn as adornment. Jeet has established a career as an outstanding sculptor and carver, having made thousands of toki; as a young man he spent a great deal of time working with his hands and labouring manually. He Toki Maitai is a meditation on the parts of his life where muscle memory and manual labour intersect, and in this way responds to the season’s theme of Sweat Equity, which explores the effects of capital and labour on bodies.
Located at Te Matatiki Toi Ora the Christchurch Arts Centre, a site which over the last decade has seen a great deal of restoration work occur, the sense of labour, particularly specialised and intensive stonework is visible everywhere. He Toki Maitai can be translated as beautiful toki or foreign/steel toki. Both translations speak to the different traditions of craft that have travelled to Ōtautahi across oceans along with their chosen materials, or else have adapted to new resources and technologies.