Carla Ruka

Tribal Affiliations: Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Whātua

Practising artist since 2000, her series of ceramics works are inspired by Atua, wāhine toa and her whakapapa of Māori and European descent.  

A member Ngā Kaihanga Uku - Māori Clay Artist Collective, former director and now committee member of Auckland Studio Potters. Carla has  participated in national and international projects fostering connections worldwide with indigenous artists. 

In 2020 she curated the exhibition “NUku" at Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, an exhibition of Māori ceramicists. 

Taking on multiple and different projects Ruka has hosted an online ceramic class project “Make a cup” sponsored by Arts out East and Te Tuhi Art Gallery. In 2021 Ruka collaborated with weaver Beronia Scott  to create “Ka Mua, Ka Muri” a large-scale art installation at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland.

Carla is selected as the 2022 Touring Potter by the Ceramic Association of NZ. The programme “Coil Aotearoa” funded by Creative NZ has Carla teaching her coiling techniques in large scale sculpture workshops, Artist presentations and community outreach programmes throughout various regions in Aotearoa.

“My work is a reflection of my spirit” Carla’s work is inspired by female deities and her ancestral heritage. 

Carla, a creative business owner, is also the Pou Ārahi at Te Tuhi art gallery, committee member of Auckland Studio Potters and an active member of Ngā Kaihanga Uku – Māori Clay Artist Collective. 


5 questions in 5 minutes:

Do you have a favourite colour? Kōkōwai

How do you take your coffee? In a Mark Goody mug

Is there something you can’t live without in your studio? Music

Who is your favourite artist of all time + now? Why? Manos Nathan, incredible man and mentor, Darcy Nicholas absolute master in his field. Andrea Hopkins her work is epic. Hiwirori Hatea design and line work.

5 words that explain you or your art?

Ko māua, ko Hineukurangi. Koia

 An interactive piece, the hairpieces are removable kōauau-like flutes called “rehu”, these taonga pūoro (musical instruments) create soft sounds that are manipulated with slight movements of tongue and lips. Two of the three have finger-holes, known as wenewene adding extra unique tones. Kōauau and Rehu can be used for entertainment, in earlier times they played a key role in healing, grieving and to ease pain.

The flute shape is a reference to the body and wing shape of the Tarakihi (cicada) of whom can spend many years embraced in Papatuānuku, the earth and Hineukurangi.

Exploring the depths of ihi, wehi and wana. through the form of Hineukurangi (clay deity). The words; ihi, wehi and wana spill across the korowai of Wana. They note a process of creation unfolding and gathering thoughts about my personal connection to Wana.

“Traditional forms of performance — karanga, wero, haka, whaikorero and waiata — connect the living to the spirit realm and invoke emotions, known as ‘te ihi’, ‘te wehi’ and ‘te wana’.

The late Wharehuia Milroy explained ihi as a kind of vibration that swells up from your core, compelling you to act; wehi as a connection with atuatanga, a spiritual or god-like state; and wana as a feeling that rises up within you as a result of an action performed by someone else. These qualities also apply to contemporary Māori performance.

An excerpt from the National Library Wellington - Pūkana exhibition archives.”

Where I most feel ihi, wehi and wana is kapahaka. While teaching kapa haka, my students understand the meaning and are able to demonstrate them through performance and play. 

I am intrigued by how ihi, wehi and wana are able to simplify the complexities of extreme rushes of emotions.  Consider the way we work with those affected by, for example, anxieties. A growing “Mental Health condition.” 

In kapa haka these emotions could be identified as gifts of ihi, wehi and wana; kapa haka students learn how to utilise these feelings and redirect them, channeling these emotions for a different, more positive outcome.

Our tupuna were incredible at understanding health of the Hinengaro (mind) utilizing specific feelings and energies and building inner strength. Uplifting self, belonging, generosity and mastery.