I AM Mahana Coulston

“My first memory of pounamu would be walking on the Arahura River with my Tāua looking for pounamu during the whitebait season,” says Mahana Coulston.

He also recollects childhood days spent along the river with his aunties, uncles and cousins.

“When I was very young I remember finding heaps of green rocks that weren’t pounamu, but my Tāua helped me identify what was and wasn’t pounamu – she was a good teacher.”

Today, Mahana is an up and coming contemporary Māori artist, carving in both wood and pounamu. His Te Tai Poutini whakapapa and time up the river helps inspire him.

“When I go up the river, I usually take my pencil and a bit of paper. I get inspired from the surroundings; the river, the bush. It is very peaceful up there – no telephones no cars, no interruptions.” His experience of the river is also an experience of whānau. “I am always with my cousins. Everything I do daily, I do with them.”

He says he is immensely proud of how hard his Iwi and rūnanga are working to manage the pounamu resource. “We have good agreements in place with the miners, we have our
own shop, our own pounamu identity. I’m proud of what we have achieved. I can see it helping the community with employment. It generates income and benefits the community.”