The bronze Makutu will be recorded as BH 505 in the forthcoming revised catalogue raisonné by Dr. Sophie Bowness.
Among the most imposing works in Hepworth's oeuvre are her "single" forms--tall, vertical sculptures that evoke the grandeur and power of the standing figure. Hepworth's first pierced sculpture was created in 1931, introducing a technique she continued to employ throughout her career. The piercing through of the hard bronze both emphasizes and challenges the underlying solidity of the medium. She believed "that the dynamic quality of the surfaces of a sculpture can be increased by devices which give one the impression that a form has been created by forces operating within its own mass as well as from outside ... the piercing of mass is a response to my desire to liberate mass without departing from it" (E. Roditi, Dialogues on Art, London, 1960, p. 99).
Hepworth had long appreciated the importance of sculpture and architectural elements of ancient civilizations, which greatly influenced the columnar structures such as Makutu. The title of the present work is derived from Maori, the native language of New Zealand, and translates as "to bewitch; a spell or incantation" (Tate Gallery Acquisitions, 1980-1982, p. 123). Hepworth gave further sculptures Maori titles, and while the artist did not visit New Zealand, she was clearly intrigued by the country and owned a Maori picture dictionary from where she likely found the title for the present work.