Creative New Zealand |20 Nov . 2007
The wharenui of Puketeraki Marae, just out of Dunedin, was opened in 2001 after it was rebuilt with the assistance of special pūtea given to all runaka to mark the settlement of the Ngai Tahu Waitangi claim.
This was a significant opportunity for Kati Huirapa runaka, which had not seen a whare whakairo in the area for more than 100 years. At the time of opening, there were no artworks created to adorn the marae, the atea or the wharenui, and the journey to develop and create these works has since been a focus of the runaka.
With assistance through Creative New Zealand's Toi Ake programme, which supports the preservation and development of toi Māori for hapū/ iwi, the runaka has been able to hold hui, co-ordinate workshops, employ artists and work slowly towards its goal of a fully adorned marae.
The first stage in the marae adornment project is now complete with the creation and instalment of a ceramic wall that greets people as they enter Puketeraki Marae and carvings that take pride of place on the mahau of the wharenui, Huirapa.
To celebrate this historic event, a whakamoemiti ceremony was held on Saturday 10 November 2007. The event was attended by approximately 200 people at a dawn ceremony to unveil, name and bless the artwork.
The development of the Huriawa pa, the creation of panels describing the history of the pa incorporating illustrations by Simon Kaan and the carving of a gateway to the pa, Tiakitaka, guided by the hands of master carver James York and completed by runaka members, are all components of this stage of the project.
For Ngai Tahu carver James York, completing the new face of the Huirapa whare tipuna was a challenge, an honour and a privilege. "It's a dream for me," he says. "I've always wanted to carve a whare and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to do it."
With it comes the responsibility for a team of carvers, interpreting the Puketeraki runaka stories from myth, legend and local history into every stroke of their chisels that shape the totara maihi, bargeboards and amo supports that will adorn the whare tipuna for decades, maybe centuries, to come.
"It's like writing a book," James explains. "The design is constantly evolving as the stories unfold. The challenge is to ensure the stories told are linked together, the whanau agree they are the right ones and the tipuna are honoured. As a master carver, it is a privilege to interpret those stories."
What is Toi Ake?
Toi Ake is a Creative New Zealand funding programme that supports the preservation and development of toi Māori for hapū/iwi.
Toi Ake has been tailored by iwi and arts practitioners into a model that focuses on development and retention of ngā toi Māori, both traditional and contemporary. Whakapapa-based roopu may apply to Te Waka Toi for funding or consultant assistance to undertake a Toi Ake project.
The next funding round closes at 5pm on Friday 29 February 2008.