Master carver Hugh Tareha, who died suddenly on Thursday evening. Photo/NZME

Hawke’s Bay master carver and influential artist Hugh Tareha, whose work can be seen across the Hawke’s Bay landscape, died suddenly on Thursday.

A specialist in native wood, artist Ngāti Parau’s work includes figures fashioned from tree stumps beside State Highway 50 on the Waiohiki Golf Course, near where he was based in as a resident artist at Waiohiki Creative Arts Village.

A descendant of Paramount Chief Ahuriri Tareha Te Moananui, a major feature of his work includes a large louse at the historic site of Otarara Pā overlooking the Ngaruroro River, the Heretaunga Plains and the town of Napier which developed from the way inland waterway Te Whanganui to Orotu.

There are also carvings at Ahuriri Estuary and West Quay, and work at the EIT Otatara campus in Taradale, on marae including Waiohiki and Pukemokimoki, and the waharoa entering the kororā shrine at Napier Harbour.

Also known for his sculpture of Maori weapons, his work has been highly visible to tourists and other visitors, and has been recognized by people such as legendary American rock guitarist Joe Walsh, of the Eagles, and a visitor to Otatara, and business luminary Kevin Roberts.

His humble nature was almost as legendary as the carving, and his brother-in-law Denis O’Reilly said, “He had the calloused hands of a sculptor and diamonds on the soles of his shoes.”

He died shortly after salsa practice in Napier, aged 63. There was salsa on Sunday night at Waiohiki Marae, where its last service is due to start at 11 a.m. tomorrow.