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Carver Ranga Tuhi and the new pou tuarongo.

New carving for Wellington campus marae receives local blessing

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Carver Ranga Tuhi works on the pou tuarongo.
The pou is intentionally obscured in the picture prior to
the unveiling. Picture – William Franco.

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A new carved pou donated to Massey University’s Te Kuratini Marae in Wellington, has received the blessing of local kaumätua, University staff and the student community.

The pou was formally blessed yesterday at a dawn ceremony led by local kaumätua Sam and June Jackson.

A small group of 12 staff and whänau gathered outside the marae and were led into the wharenui while karakia (prayers) were recited by the kaumätua elders. This was followed by a karakia recited by the carver of the pou, design student Ranga Tuhi (Waikato, Ngäti Maniapoto). Mr Tuhi also gave an explanation of the carving in Mäori to the gathering.

Later in the morning, a presentation was made to a group of about 40 University staff and students, where Mr Tuhi explained the spiritual connection between carvers and their work and the different influences and aspects of the pou.

Te Kaiwawao – Senior (Mäori) Manager Te Tumatakuru O’Connell says the koha of the carving by Mr Tuhi has provided a unique engagement opportunity for staff and students and showcases the work of a student who will graduate from the College of Creative Arts at the end of the year. “Mr Tuhi has effectively revitalised the culture of the campus, as the marae is often referred to as its heart.”

Mr Tuhi says the 2.4m pou tuarongo (post symbolising the tangata whenua or home people) is a koha, and is his way of giving back to the marae. “Since I started studying here five years ago, I felt the house needed to be clothed and needed a pou. The pou tuarongo is important for tangata whenua and is the backbone to marae activities.

“The reason I decided to create the pou was to unite staff and students and strengthen the sense of community around the marae. There is a strong bond between carvers and marae. A carver has an obligation or responsibility to marae, particularly those without carvings.”

He says modern processes as well as materials were used. “This pou stands 2.4m tall and, instead of kauri, is carved out of custom-wood.  It’s more difficult to work with in a lot of ways because it is like soft butter and there is not much room for error.”

He will also leave documentation about the pou and its development with marae staff to inform future students and staff about the carving process and why and how it was made. This will include drawings of the surface pattern and design, which includes three main figures. The bottom figure features the goddess of death, Hine Nui Te Po. Above her is a likeness of Maui, the demigod in his quest for immortality for mankind – a quest in which he failed and was killed by Hine Nui Te Po. A figure of the goddess features again at the top of the pou.

Associate Professor Ross Hemera, the College of Creative Arts’ Kaiwhakaahua (Director of Mäori Development), says the pou tuarongo is one of the most important pou in a whare as it depicts the culmination of the Mäori life cycle.

“Gifting the piece to the marae is very honourable. The marae provides a Mäori context on campus for design students and pou are created as a living piece of work, and need the marae to bring it to life,” says Mr Hemera.

Mr Hemera says the pou is also a fantastic example of what can be achieved through the University’s Toi Ätea programme. “The piece is quite close to what you might expect to see in customary whakairo (carving). A lot of the references and aspects he uses are drawn from customary whakairo practice, and therefore, he is to be commended for his desire to work within an institutional teaching and learning environment.”
 

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