Pounamu - The Stone in our Bones


"We tend to think of a stone age people as primitive, but they were far from primitive, they were a sophisticated people"


Gerard Smyth

Alan Bollinger

This one hour documentary screened on Television New Zealand's Art Series 'Artsville' in 2010.

Bones is a tale of how pounamu has been shaped- of how it has shaped us -and how these processes continue today.

It’s a new era for the stone. A renaissance started forty years ago is throwing up new work. The object that describes us as us, has been undergoing a watershed time. As a consequence, a recent history in which Pounamu was sometimes undervalued and sold cheaply as tourist trinkets, is disappearing.

New Zealand’s carvers have now come to the attention of the international jade community who see our artisans and artists as leaders in innovation. They stand without peer in bringing fresh design to the jade carving world.

A decade ago the ownership of Pounamu was restored to southern Maori. This is giving debate and new consideration as to the best way forward for our land’s finest treasure. Once again the kaitiaki, are those whose ancestor’s lives revolved around pounamu.

Members of the Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae invite us to hikoi (to travel) the sacred waters of the Arahura River - the legendary headquarters of pounamu bearing waters. The search for stone is observed, tribal members speak of their history and their plans to protect the stone for their children and beyond.

We see over 60 works. From those of earliest Maori to pieces from our flourishing contemporary carvers.

We visit Te Papa and see their extraordinary treasure trove on ancient maori taonga.

We travel high into the Southern Alps and understand something of the forces that form the stone and where it is found.

It’s the aim of Poumanu-The Stone in our Bones- to bring to New Zealand a new reverence for our stone, so that it, pounamu might sit better in its rightful place as the most prized taonga of Aotearoa.