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Here you can view the process of making this beautiful sculpture and read the story and inspiration behind the design.

Click on images to enlarge.

This journey began with an inspiring story of an amazing woman's life. On the day of her tangi a very large pod of whales were seen entering the nearby harbour, one whale separated and came very close to the shore near the Urupa. The Whales are considered kaitiaki (guardians) - the kaumatua believe that the whales presence were an acknowledgment of her mana, and they came to guide this amazing woman's spirit to the next part of her journey.

I included references to whales in each of my designs. A nephew also submitted a design idea that I tweaked a little, and it was this design that was selected.

The stylised approach meant I could include various design elements and ensure it was structurally robust.

I wanted it to be viewed from all angles so it has some feature on the front back and sides. (see the making for these views)

We were looking for height so that it could be seen from afar so the tail was depicted on its side - disappearing into the headstone. I utilised koru designs for the fins representing her strength and mana, and the beginning of the next part of her journey. I incorporated a weaving design on the side of the fins to represent strength, and family, and strength of family. It is the binding together of many individual strands, which creates a stronger whole, and often takes a person of great mana to accomplish that feat. I included a kowhaiwhai pattern that represented the 5 children.

The tail isn't straight up and down - I wanted a little curvature and movement. I always like light passing through my sculptures and a gap between the tail and the top of the headstone accentuated the shape of the tail, and the flow of the design. I had a plaque created that complimented and flowed with the design and added further uniqueness to the memorial.

It was my absolute pleasure working with her family and being part of this process.



Brett Keno
New Zealand Stone Carving Artist and Sculptor


In simple words to best describe Brett, I would have to say he is absolutely AMAZING!! From the time I picked up the phone to ring him he was so helpful & professional, he put my mind at ease straight away by accepting to carve my mothers headstone.
Our whanau wanted someone with talent, experience and Tikanga maori, he matched this and much more. Brett always kept me updated by sending emails of what progress was made each day. He took me on a journey from start to finish, and at times I was speechless and completely mesmerized by seeing the transformation take place.
Through his work with the stone he gave it life and was genuinely passionate about the work he did. Thank you Brett for taking on the challenge, you will forever be a special Taonga to my whanau. Arohanui.

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