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Travel, nature and culture influences artwork



thumbnail Brett with Pou-242JULIA WADE

If any Mangawhai residents have possessed a secret desire to see a life-size totem pole adorning their front lawn, they now have a chance to see their dream realised.

Inspired by his time with native Canadian and American carvers, local wood-sculptor, Brett Sutherland has carved a totem pole reflective of Mangawhai’s natural wildlife, which is now up for sale.

Entitled 'Coastal Native Bird Totem/Pou', the impressive piece of 3.3m carved totara features six coastal Mangawhai birds – a fairy tern, kingfisher, oyster catcher, white faced heron, pied shag, and spoonbill, which took Sutherland 400 hours of hand-chiselling to complete.

“My totem/Pou came from wanting to portray what I felt was the most important Taonga we have,” the self-taught carver says. “I carved it without a tribal style or identity, to be more generalised for everyone now living here.”

Sutherland’s love for carving began when he was only 16 with an interest in Maori bone carving, a passion he turned into a career when in his late 20s.

After completing a degree in Zoology due to ‘having a lifelong interest in nature’, he roamed and worked around the globe for 12 years, including a short spell as tour guide on gorilla safaris.

During his travelling, Sutherland became influenced by various cultures, coming into contact ‘with many different tribal peoples from Africa to Alaska’ and says he ‘fell in love’ with the size and presence of native Canadian and American totems.

“I knew I would one day carve my own,” he says. “Before that, and for many years after, I'd been carving bone and fossil ivory in small scale so increasing the scale was fun.”

Beginning the artwork during the April level 4 lockdown, Sutherland first carved a small-scale maquette or model version, which he used as a reference to create the real life-size version, and has many other ideas in maquette-form for future totems.

“However, the coastal bird totem is now for sale, so I welcome anyone interested to give me a call and make a time to come and view.”

§ Visualising a totem pole in your garden? Contact Brett 027 965 5642. Want to know more? Visit Brett’s website skinbonestone.com


An impressive piece for any art-lover; carver Brett Sutherland’s first life-size totem pole – featuring six coastal Mangawhai birds – is now for sale. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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