Toki Poutangata by Alex Sands
Hand carved by Alex Sands with pounamu sourced from the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand.
Toki poutangata 30.5cm long
17.5cm from top of carving to edge of the pounamu blade
Pounamu blade is 3.8cm at the widest point and 8.5cm from the binding to the edge
About Toki Poutangata:
A toki poutangata is a ceremonial adze worked from pounamu or greenstone that is usually lashed to a finely carved handle. Almost invariably carried by a person of mana, someone of high rank and with great leadership qualities, they were often adorned with the feathers of significant birds. Such birds included the kaka, kahu, and the kereru. Perhaps the nearest equivalent in European culture is the sceptre, used by kings as a symbol of rank and power and bearing the spiritual symbolism of the Christian cross.
Toki poutangata were used on ceremonial occasions, such as the felling of a great tree for a significant waka (canoe) or for the ridgepole of a whare nui or meeting house. The first chips cut from the tree were taken by the tohunga to a special place where karakia of thanksgiving were recited to the god of the forest, Tanemahuta in acknowledgement of the sacrifice of his offspring. The chips might also be returned ceremonially to the forest to nurture new growth.
It is believed that the toki poutangata was originally used for the ceremonial execution of captives. Upon the death of its owner, the special handle was buried with them while the pounamu blade remained with the tribe. Once it had been decided who would succeed the chief, another handle was fashioned and lashed to the adze.
No two pieces of pounamu are the same, and every stone is treated with the utmost respect by those who source and carve it.
Renowned for its beauty and strength, the rare stone is highly valued by both Maori and greater New Zealand. While generically known as greenstone or New Zealand jade, pounamu refers to the particular types of hard nephrite jade, found only in southern New Zealand.