Te Ati Awa, Ngati Toa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Raukawa
Hemi’s work is underpinned by a strong cultural base, tribal narrative and oral histories are invaluable sources of inspiration for many of his works. He is classically trained with his work rooted in customary and classical forms of expression, it is this solid foundation that allows him to explore new forms, materials and innovative technologies in a contemporary context without losing those key conceptual cultural reference points and meaning. The negotiation of tension between the customary and the contemporary has become Sundgren’s signature. Hemi’s work as a participating and practicing Māori artist is only one of the many roles he currently fulfills. He is an accomplished carver proficient in many creative expressions, a taa moko practitioner (customary skin marking), researcher of whakapapa (tribal history), waiata (classical song), ruruku (classical incantation) and traditional oral histories, particular to the tribes he belongs to. He is a fluent speaker of Māori and is active in the revitalisation / regeneration of the language. This has seen him co-ordinate and develop a regional strategic language plan and participate in the re-development of a draft regional wordlist / dictionary of commonly used words in Taranaki. He is a graduate of the esteemed Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua and has lectured on Māori Art, Design and Māori language. Formerly curator of taonga Māori (Māori Collection) at Puke Ariki Museum, Hemi is currently General Manager of Te Runanga o Ngati Mutunga, is Chair of the Komiti Whakairo Toi Māori (National Carving Committee) and Chair of Te Reo o Taranaki Charitable Trust. He has been exhibited nationally and internationally with his works held in collections in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad.