Sculptor makes magic at Mangawhai

The trunk and branches from a massive burnt out pohutukawa tree have been transformed by a Wellsford carver into a series of sculptures and outdoor furniture for a new coastal subdivision on the estuary at Mangawhai.

Dutch-born Boud van den Bemd has created 43 carved wooden pou, or posts, plus benches and a giant picnic table from a single felled tree at Mangawhai Point. The subdivision is a 40-lot development at the southern end of Moir Point Road, next to the Moirs Point Christian Centre camp.

Taking pride of place at the entrance is a striking 5-metre tall pou whenua in black and tan, decorated with carved stingrays, eels and an octopus, all formed from vine-like branchlets entwined around the core branch.

Boud says the marine theme ties in with the development’s position on the estuary and the fact that Mangawhai means ‘stream of stingrays’. He says it is also apt since there was also a Maori chief called Te Whai, originally from Pakiri, who settled at the point in the early 1800s.

A significant pa, middens and terraces were discovered on the site when it was cleared for redevelopment, and the area has since been surveyed, preserved and planted with native shrubs and plants.

Boud has carved two 2.5-metre welcoming posts, or pou powhiri, at the entrance to the pa and new section of coastal walkway.

“These two posts are male and female, with the female slightly in front, as women always lead a powhiri,” Boud says. “And the 42 1-metre posts I carved that are placed at the entrance of every section boundary represent the children of those walkway ‘parents’.

“So all of this is relevant, and has a connection with the families and children that will be eventually living here.”

Further along the coastal path, Boud has carved and placed four large, rustic pohutukawa benches, two overlooking the Mangawhai estuary and sand dunes, and two surrounding a vast picnic table made from the pohutukawa trunk and overlooking a small beach. The bench seat and back rests have been planed smooth and varnished, leaving the rest of the wood as natural as possible.

Boud was commissioned to make the carvings by Julie Robb, development consultant for the company responsible for Mangawhai Point, Auckland-based Jessie Developments. She saw his work displayed at the Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens, near Kaukapakapa, and decided he was ideal for the job. She says she is delighted with the carvings and the way they blend into the landscaping of the subdivision and its surrounds.

“That’s our vision, we want to keep it all as natural as possible, with the trees and sculptures, so it’s a bit different from normal subdivisions,” she says. “Before we bought it, it was like a jungle, no one could get down there. Now, we’ve put in a path, we uncovered the pa and planted the pa site, and put in a bridge leading up to Jordan Street. We wanted to make some nice chairs and tables, had a look at Boud’s work and thought, ‘we like it!’”

Boud has been sculpting and carving wood since he was 12, and has worked and exhibited  at a variety of venues, including Kerry Strongman’s Te Hana Arts Factory, Te Ao Marama cultural centre in Te Hana and Auckland’s The Cloud. Collectors of his work include Auckland art collector Sir James Wallace.