Introducing TAI KEHU, a collaboration led by indigenous pro-surfer Kehu Butler, with global surf brand Quiksilver.Kehu (Ngāti Rangi) (23), born and raised in Tauranga Moana and a proud Kaitiaki (steward) of Māori the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand), Kehu has developed strong connections with the brand since becoming their sponsored member at the age of 9. This close relationship has led to Kehu taking a leading role in a collaborative project which showcases his rich Māori whakapapa (Genealogy) and profound bond with the Moana (ocean).
The name of the collection TAI KEHU, translates to the ocean & coastlines of Aotearoa (‘moana’), to Kehu himself, and the ancestry (‘whakapapa’) that his name holds. Within the intricate designs, narratives come alive. The collection represents the culmination of five core pillars steeped in tikanga Māori.
- Marakihau, the anthropomorphic representation of a water spirit, it stands as the guardian of oceans and waterways, tracing its ancestry to Tangaroa, the Māori Sea Deity.
- Tāniko, represents the interweaving of diverse perspectives, ideas and stories that bind us together.
- Tohu Makaurangi, encompasses repeated patterns that encapsulate the many aspects of our diverse environment.
- Hei Tiki, the hei-tiki is a significant cultural representation for Māori. Serving as an expression of cultural identity and pride, indicating a connection to Māori heritage and traditions.
The project was guided by two of New Zealand's most highly regarded tā moko artists, Maia Gibbs (Ngāti Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu) and Henare Brooking (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) of Toi Ake Maori Art Gallery in Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne).
The pair have previously incorporated Toi Māori into their designs for The One NZ Warriors and The Silver Ferns. Quiksilver took the time to consult in Maia and Henare, to ensure that the group obeyed all Māori protocol throughout the project.
Describing the collaboration, the artists see themselves as the visual interpreters of Kehu, translating his ideas through their design capabilities and skills. Henare emphasises the importance of following traditional protocol, and paying respect to ancient Māori customs, patterns and traditions.
“If it’s going to have any sort of Māori patterns on them, it needs to be done right. Because it will carry the whole weight of Te Ao Māori on them.” - Maia
Maia Gibbs holds a deep connection to TAI KEHU, as he gave Kehu his most recent tā moko (tattoo), adding to the naturally authentic formation of the group.
Everyone involved agreed to the artists' terms of Kaitiaki (Cultural Agreement), and all aspects of the project were subjected to their approval. Once the design process began, Kehu, Quiksilver and the artists collaborated closely to create five designs that brought the vision of Kehu to life. The Quiksilver team travelled to Aotearoa to immerself themselves in the project and Te Ao Māori through food, conversation and waves. Staying with the Butler family in Tauranga Moana and the artist’s in Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne), Quiksilver learned about the history of the whenua (land) the people of the land (tangata whenua), and the importance of the designs.
The goal for Kehu in life is to make surfing as popular as Rugby in New Zealand, for Māori kids. In pursuit of this, he insisted Quiksilver make a donation to Te Matapihi Kohanga Reo, his full-immersion Māori school, a place which played a pivotal role in shaping who he is today.
“Being a Māori kid in New Zealand was a unique upbringing from the rest of the world. Because I went to a Māori school, I was speaking a lot of Māori as well, learning a lot about our culture and all of our natural practices.” - Kehu
“I want to be remembered as the guy that cracked it in surfing, and made it a pathway almost as big as rugby in Aotearoa for young Māori kids.” - Kehu
Driving the collaboration from Quiksilver was Billy Lee-Pope, a Kiwi surf photographer born in Raglan who now lives in the Gold Coast. He expressed pride in being part of the project and highlighted the inspiring story of Kehu and the artists, with their deep connection to culture and the ocean.
“In the action sports world, signature collections do not come around often, so for Kehu, a Kiwi kid from Arataki to rise up through his career with Quiksilver over the past 12 years and hit this point is an achievement he can be proud of. As his friend, I am so stoked for him.” - Billy
The collection launches 15th September 2023, in-store and online.