Te Rau Karamu Marae opens to acclaim

Marae interior

Inside the wharenui, Te Rau Karamu Marae

The opening of Te Rau Karamu Marae on Pukeahu Campus at Massey University in Wellington is being hailed as a significant step forward for the city central campus and for Massey’s commitment to kaupapa Māori.

A crowd of nearly 400 gathered at dawn on Saturday morning to celebrate the blessing of the marae complex and to hear its name for the first time. As darkness gave way to light, Whanganui and Te Ātiawa tohunga and kaumātua led staff, students and guests in karakia, imbuing the marae with life and announcing its name Te Rau Karamu, with the wharenui being named Te Whaioranga o Te Whaiao. At 10am guests, including the Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, were among the first to be welcomed onto the marae which sits at the heart of the Pukeahu Campus.

Minster Robertson acknowledged the significance of the marae to Māori student success. “It’s really important that we provide an environment that supports all students and I believe this marae will do that for Māori students and others as well. It’s really important that there is a place to recognise that Te Tiriti relationship.”

Massey Chancellor Michael Ahie of Taranaki, Ngā Ruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, agreed the Marae provides a tangible demonstration of Massey’s aspiration to be Te Tiriti led. “To have an exemplar of partnership, protection, participation, which this whare at Pukeahu Campus is, then that’s more than just mere words.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, Professor Meihana Durie of Rangitāne, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Raukawa Te Au ki Te Tonga, Ngāti Porou, Rongo Whakaata, Ngāi Tahu,  said the significance of the Marae in providing an authentic cultural space could not be underestimated. “Te Rau Karamu Marae positions kaupapa, tikanga and mātauranga Māori in the absolute heart of our University Campus here in Wellington. In doing so, it will enhance and enrich the experiences of each and every one of our Massey students who study with us here. The Marae and it’s Whare, Te Whaioranga o Te Whaiao, brings to campus an immensely inspiring space in which our staff, students, community and Iwi partners can now gather together for hui and wānanga.”

Whetu Awatere, of Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou, Te Atiawa, watched the construction of the marae during his time as a Fine Arts student and will be among the first to enjoy celebrations to honour Māori graduates from it, when he graduates next month. He says for students, the marae brings a physical understanding of what te ao Māori looks like. “In the institute you get the theories around it, but you don’t often see the embodiment or get the chance to engage.” Mr Awatere says the Marae brings a normalisation of who Māori students are into the University space.

Te Rau Karamu Marae builds on the historic legacy of Te Kuratini Marae which was established in 1977 on Buckle Street as part of the Wellington Polytechnic. Te Kuratini was a significant but largely unheralded learning centre in the revitalisation of te reo Māori. Language classes run by te reo Māori champions the late Huirangi Waikerepuru, Te Ariki Mei and others, supported and informed the culture of change within a range of institutions from the civil service through to the community in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

The Toi Whakairo ( toi piataata) were created by Te Kāhui Toi, a team of artist-designers including Wi Taepa, Kura Puke, Saffronn Te Ratana, Hemi MacGregor, Maihi Potaka, Stuart Foster, Robert Jahnke, Israel Birch, Kurt Komene and Ngatai Taepa. The kaupapa for the whakairo was developed with the late Mereiwa Broughton and Te Huirangi Waikerepuru with support from Inahaa Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Te Ngaruru Wineera and Kura Moeahu. Te Kāhui Toi artist, Professor Ngataiharuru Taepa of Te Atiawa, Te Arawa, says “It was special to be able to develop our work alongside the late Mereiwa Broughton and Te Huirangi Waikerepuru. With their guidance and the support of other tohunga we have developed a whare wānanga, a space of learning, that we hope will benefit future generations of Māori and contribute to knowledge and understanding here on Pukeahu.”

Professor Bob Jahnke of Ngai Taharora, Te Whanau a Iritekura, Te Whanau a Rakairo o Ngati Porou, who established the Māori Visual Arts programme at Massey says the new marae is exquisite and a unique space. “One of the things that amazes me about Ngatai Taepa’s work is he’s taken the language of kōwhaiwhai and developed a language that is uniquely his. It does, in terms of the rhythms and the way the kōwhaiwhai is supported by linear elements, pay tribute to customary practises and methods but then he lifts it a little bit and pushes the agenda beyond what you find within the customary vocabulary.”

Throughout the development of this marae, mana whenua Te Ātiawa have been crucial in their support. Te Ātiawa kaumatua Kura Moeahu says the creativity of the artists’ work is phenomenal and he says Te Whaioranga o Te Whaiao has wow factor. “This is a beautiful house enriched not only with arts and Māori motifs and designs but the use of technology. It is rich with an abundance of knowledge in here, and it’s an abundance of mātauranga that’s about to be unleashed.”

Kaumatua from Whanganui were given the honour of helping to open the marae and Che Wilson of Whanganui says it was a magical unfurling and realisation of dreams. “You now have a place where people can be inspired by tīpuna wisdom and all the whakapapa that has been put here through art and see how modern technology can still share consistent stories that have been passed down for generations and generations.”

Taurima, for Manawatū Campus, Julia Taiapa, says while the Marae took time to build it was warranted and the beautiful whare is filled with aroha.  “In the morning there was rain but when the karakia started there was a gentle breeze that went through and I definitely felt that all those who had been a part of the dream, who were no longer with us were definitely there and so for me that told me that things were right and everything will be ok here.”

The marae, which can host guests overnight, will be predominately used for teaching and learning with Kaupapa Māori to the fore.  Even the landscaping has been specifically designed with native species as part of the outdoor learning space.

Professor Durie has thanked the large team who have worked diligently to complete the project. “The Marae represents the culmination of an immense commitment to a compelling vision for the future of Massey in Wellington and the opening also brings with it an opportunity to acknowledge those who have helped contribute to this vision, including our Iwi partners, Te Ātiawa and Te Kāhui Toi, under the leadership of Professor Ngātai Taiapa.  We are now looking forward to making the most of the outstanding opportunities ahead of us.”

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Toi Rauwhārangi
College of Creative Arts
Wellington, Aotearoa