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School kids enjoy Matariki at one of Aotearoa's most contemporary marae (+photos)

School kids enjoy Matariki at one of Aotearoa’s most contemporary marae (+photos)

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(Kaikoura Suburban School Blog) A group of schoolchildren have enjoyed a night at Takahanga Marae to celebrate Matariki.

Students from Suburban School began the annual visit to the marae last year, and now hope to turn it into a tradition for future generations.

During their visit the children learned to acknowledge their ancestors, their whanau and find out more about Maori culture and customs.

The visit began with a powhiri to welcome new families onto the marae, with proud fellow students watching as Natalia Callow and Tira Hawke stepped up to reply to the karanga.

Senior boys Thor Manawatu and James Sutherland gave a whai korero, or speech, and the rest of the school sang two waiata.

Activities for the day included making clay flutes, spinning stars and kites, soap carving and writing poetry.

Lorraine Hawke and Brett Cowan told the children the story of the pepeha, introduction, and how it is formed and they started work on drafting some artwork based on the pepeha.

About 40 students and 10 adults stayed the night at the marae to celebrate Matariki and principal Michelle Spencer said the school felt privileged to have the caring support from the marae, in particular from Lorraine, Brett and Sarah Watson, to enable the experience each year.

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu tell us on their website the following:

Takahanga Marae is the standing place for Ngati Kuri. The Marae, buildings and grounds are sacred and has Mana that has to be respected by everybody who enters the Marae grounds – it is wahii tapu. The house that stands today is on the exact site of the original house, which stood some 200 years ago. The original Marae was built some 450 years ago by Kati Mamoe.

The current Marae was built in the mid-1980s and the Wharenui (meeting house) officially opened in January 1992. Beautifully carved it was built in honour of our tupuna Maru Kaitatea, son of the Chief Purahonui who led Ngati Kuri south in a migration from the Wairarapa.

Purahonui was killed during the migration and Maru Kaitatea took his father’s place as Chief and eventually settled in this area claiming mana whenua after being challenged to eat from a sacred poha (kelp bag) which contained the first fruits of the season. These fruits were tapu and were meant for high ranking chiefs only.

Whoever ate from the poha and survived could claim manawhenua. Maru Kaitatea was the Chief who ate from the poha – thus claiming the area of Kaikoura. The poha was called Te Poha o Tohu Raumati which is the name of our Wharekai (dining room). Kaikoura’s exact name is Te Ahi kai koura a Tama ki te Rangi – the place where Tama ki te Rangi cooked crayfish.

Wikipedia entry on the Master Carver, Cliff Whiting details the following:

Cliff Whiting, ONZ (born 6 May 1936) is a New Zealand Maori artist, heritage advocate and teacher. Whiting was born and raised in Te Kaha, New Zealand and is a member of the Te Wh?nau-?-Apanui tribe


In 1955, Whiting began teacher training at Wellington Teachers College where his artistic talents were quickly recognised. His teachers training coincided with the Department of Education’s drive to develop Maori and Western European culture in schools. Whiting was selected as a district advisor in arts and crafts and, with other young Maori artists including John Bevan Ford, Sandy Adsett, Cath Brown, Ralph Hotere, Paratene Matchitt, Muru Walters, and Marilyn Webb, was supported and encouraged by Gordon Tovey, the national supervisor for arts and crafts, to explore and promote traditional and contemporary Maori art within the New Zealand educational system.

As a district advisor Whiting worked with local Maori communities as well as schools to encourage engagement with Maori art. Constrained by the price and lack of availability of traditional timbers and tools he explored and encouraged the use of modern materials, especially particle and hard boards, and bold colours. These new materials and techniques combined with traditional subjects contributed to the development of his innovative artistic style.

During the 1970s Whiting accepted the position of lecturer in Maori art at Palmerston North Teacher’s College where he introduced the concept of student marae visits and continued to encourage the inclusion of Maori art in schools.

In 1979 he directed and led the carving, kowhaiwhai, painting and kakaho panels of the College’s wharenui Te Kupenga o Te M?tauranga.

Whiting’s work with Maori communities and his belief in the importance on the role of the marae in maintaining and revitalising Maori arts and culture led him to contribute and lead in restoring historic wharenui (carved meeting houses) and other marae buildings. He was encouraged in this by Pineamine Taiapa, a renowned, traditionally trained carver and a relation of Whiting’s on his mother’s side of the family.

Whiting joined the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and in 1974 served on the Trust’s Maori Heritage Advisory Committee. He also worked with the Historic Places Trust as the Maori Buildings Adviser and become a leading authority on the restoration of Maori buildings. Whiting participated in the Historic Places Trust’s first marae conservation project at Manutuke.

It had always been the Trust’s policy to work in partnership with iwi and hapu when restoring marae. Whiting felt that it was his role to establish and maintain a close connection between the Trust and those iwi (tribes) participating in the various projects.


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