Paku Pū Rākau Alphabet Blocks

A set of blocks showcasing the Māori alphabet, numbers, Māori deities, and traditional patterns has been developed to merge with a mobile app, breathing life into pūrākau (ancient legends) through digital animations. These alphabet blocks, presented in te reo Māori, aspire to infuse Māori culture into Kiwi households, fostering familiarity through play.

The Paku Pū Rākau blocks encompass the Māori alphabet, numerical symbols, Māori atua (divinities), and intricate designs. Nevertheless, as artist Johnson Witehira (of Tamahaki, Uenuku, Ngāi Tūteauru descent), who co-founded the design studio Paku, elaborates, these blocks are more than mere letters and images when combined with a forthcoming specialised app.

Paku AR App

“With all the new technology now, I thought how can we make this kind of interactive and a little bit more fun?” Witehira shared.

This is where the PAKU AR app enters the picture, breathing life into Māori figures through digital animation when viewed through a smartphone or tablet.

This reality app will enable tamariki (children) to engage with these stories in both the physical and digital realms. Each atua can be scanned, and their interactions will unveil pūrākau in the process.

The Vision

“I just want to find ways to bring te ao Māori into people’s homes. Like all homes, not just Māori. I think product design is a really cool way to do that.

“So that’s kind of the idea and I think, what better place to start than with kids?”

Witehira takes pleasure in fusing traditional Māori art with contemporary design elements in his creations.

From a Doctorate study to reality

Originally conceived as part of Witehira’s doctorate in contemporary Māori design in 2011, these blocks have now been revamped to include more atua and the narratives they convey. Witehira’s mission with these blocks is to normalise te ao Māori (the Māori world) in New Zealand society.

“There are very few Maori toys… very few interactive Māori language resources. It’s around this idea of learning through play and learning about te ao Māori through play.”

To bring this innovative product to life, Witehira has initiated a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising 10,000 dollars.

This article was sourced and rewritten from a previous article on


PC1 – Image from Pinterest

PC2 – Image sourced from the article