It ain’t famous for its fancy restaurants, but Ashhurst could be at the heart of all Māori art if Horowai Le Par has his way. The Māori artist, who is originally from Gisborne, plans to make the quiet town a must-see stop on the Manawatu tourist trail.
He’s opening a Ta Moko studio and art gallery, Toi Katoa, in a bid to attract artists from both the Manawatu and around the country to exhibit and sell their wares. Le Par, who gained his master’s in Māori visual art from Massey University’s Te Putahi a Toi last year, has been living in Ashhurst for seven years.
He’s one of several Māori artists living in the community, with sculptor Israel Birch, and painter Andre Te Hira also making it their home. And legendary Maori artist John Bevan Ford, a pioneer of the contemporary Māori art movement, also lived in Ashhurst until his death in 2005. After leaving school, Le Par joined the New Zealand Defence Force and trained as a signwriter.
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