Alex Tūkariri-Wong is a descendant of Ngāti Kahu and Ngāpuhi on his Mums’ side and China, Irish and Welsh heritage on his Papa’s side. He grew up in Whangaroa in Te Tai Tokerau, which is where he hopes to be laid to rest alongside the rest of his whanau. Alex grew up on Maunga Emiemi and this is where he first learnt how to make, collect and process uku. He plans to return and build a studio in the near future. He inspired by the patterns, textures and colours that naturally occur in te taiao, and interpretations of these from a Māori perspective. Ultimately Alex’s mahi shows a love for Papatuanuku, and most of her children.
All of Alex’s uku are made by him on a pottery wheel, from uku he has dug and prepared himself by hand. In his current work two different types of uku are used, half from Ōtaki from the whenua of Ngāti Raukawa and half from Maunga Emiemi, on the whenua of Ngāti Kahu. In 2021 he was inspired to enter the world of uku due to a feverish desire to replicate a bowl of his late Papa’s, which he had thought to have been lost. A simple but beautiful Chinese bowl that his Papa used to make sure Alex would get to eat from. Since then he has worked mostly on a pottery wheel creating food-ware, however he has become increasingly excited by hand-built things such as taonga puoro. He uses glazes and oneone (natural pigment) to adorn or complement the uku he has collected.
Photo credit: Jess Wawatai