Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Remembering the old, moving into the new...

The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, Te Puia; words synonymous with iconic Māori tourism, but look a little closer and you’ll find a wealth of knowledge associated with our past.

Thousands of foreign visitors each day pass through the waharoa at Te Puia snapping shots of huge carved guardians and marvelling at the impressive infrastructure. With cultural performances scheduled throughout the day, resident Kiwi, a guaranteed showing of the world famous Pohutu Geyser, and hangi available for lunch and dinner, it’s a tourist paradise.

The commercial aspects of Te Puia and its mandated responsibility to maintain, develop and promote Māori arts, crafts and culture are intimately linked. Te Puia is totally self-funding and is one, if not the only self-sustaining cultural centre in the world. Every dollar that is earned through the operation is channelled directly back into the business, the operation of the schools and for kaupapa throughout the country.

Te Puia Chief Executive, Te Taru White says the tourism arm enables authentic Māori culture to be recognised globally, “Te Puia is a vessel that articulates our living legacy, our history, stories, genealogy – our culture to the many people that visit us over time. So we’re storytellers; we’re presenters of our history and culture.”

Rebranded as Te Puia in 2005, the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute is the result of a vision held by the late Sir Apirana Ngata. Ngata identified art and craft with the supporting knowledge and disciplines as the pillars of Māori tribal culture. His dream was to establish centres of learning to maintain and perpetuate these customs under Māori tuition, and for Māori to retain their customary practices. Ngata understood that the key to preserving tribal knowledge and identity was through the maintenance of material culture, and in particular marae, the epicentre of tribal history, society and identity.

The first Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Act was passed in 1926, but it would be another 40 years before the institute would take residence in the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and be established as a national organisation. Māori guides had been operating in the Whakarewarewa valley prior to the Tarawera eruption in 1886, and were the main draw to Rotorua alongside the geothermal activity.

In 1967 Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau (the National Carving School) was established and Hone Taiapa was appointed the inaugural Head of School. Hone and his brother Pine had trained alongside Te Arawa and Waikato carvers at the original carving school located at Ohinemutu. First intake carver and the current Head of School James Rickard says Te Puia’s role within the Māori community is crucial, “this school is a necessary part of the survival of our culture, if you continually change bits and pieces of your culture you’re going to end up with nothing. The legacy of Te Puia is to maintain what we have”.

One of many unique aspects of Te Puia is its legislated mandate to confer its own qualifications. Māori principles and values, quality standards, and teaching practices of the past continue to be the operating framework for the Institute today. Te Puia General Manager Visitor Experience Karl Johnstone says, “This framework centres its efforts on the direct development of cultural capital for hapū and iwi throughout the country. Students of the Institute are cultural conduits for their iwi. The objectives of our training programmes are to develop highly skilled artists that can return to their hau kainga and pass on their teachings”.

Amongst many contributions to the Nation, the Carving School has built and restored over 40 whare whakairo since its establishment and has just completed carvings for the new Ngāti Pāoa whare, Pāoa Whanaunga in Kaiaua. While that statistic is impressive in its own right, it does not include the legacy of houses built since its inception in 1926 or the whare that graduates of the Institute have gone on to complete after leaving Te Puia.

In 1969 Te Rito, the National Weaving School was set up at the Institute and has produced many skilled weavers from all over the country since that time. Initially led by Tōhunga Rāranga Emily Schuster, the role was inherited by her daughter Edna Pahewa who says a renaissance of the artform has strengthened its existence. Like the Carving School, Te Rito has been involved in countless community based programmes and continues to run day and night classes to teach our woven time honoured traditions.

In October of this year the Pounamu Training and Development Unit, led by Lewis Gardiner was launched and coincided with the launch of Te Puia’s independent official quality mark. The mark has been specifically implemented for works produced within the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute but has the potential to grow incrementally. The mark is as an independent quality measure, guaranteeing the standard of workmanship and the materials across all tāonga produced by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.

Karl Johnstone says the traditional Poito image used on the Mark of Authenticity is part of the legacy of Te Puia, “the concept of this design was developed by Hone Taiapa to symbolise its legislated role to keep the arts and crafts traditions of Māori afloat.”

By Marire Kuka (featured in Dec/Jan Mana Magazine)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pounamu School Launch

Sir Apirana Ngata’s vision further realised

With the launch of the Pounamu Development and Training Unit at Te Puia, the late Māori leader’s dream of perpetuating Māori arts and crafts as pillars of Māori culture has taken another step forward.

The Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act was passed in 1926 by the efforts of Sir Apirana Ngata and supporters such as Hon. Jospeh Gordon Coates. It would be another 30 years before the NZ Māori Arts and Crafts Institute took residence within the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley in 1967, now known as Te Puia. Over that time Te Puia has trained students in carving and weaving traditions, and at one point, had a local pounamu carver on site.

The Pounamu Unit will include a back-of-house workshop and a display carver in the existing Carving School to talk to visitors about the art form. Carved pounamu – made onsite – will be available to the public by mid to late October.

The team – lead by Lewis Gardiner (Ngāti Pikiao/Ngāi Tahu) – will also be training existing Te Puia students in the time honoured tradition of pounamu, and will be offering training to prospective students in the near future.

As part of the pōwhiri to welcome the team of carvers, Te Puia will also be launching its own Official Mark of Authenticity as an independent quality measure, guaranteeing the standard of workmanship across all tāonga produced by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.

Te Puia Chief Executive Te Taru White says “we are excited about this new development; it is another opportunity for Te Puia to fulfill its responsibilities to maintain and develop Māori arts, crafts and culture for future generations”.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The mana of a stolen tāonga has been restored

A Māori carving taken from an Earthquake Engineering conference in China has been replaced with an exact replica carved by the National Carving School at Te Puia.

The 37 centimeter tall carving was originally carved by Master Carver Charles Tuarau and represented Ruaumoko, the God of Earthquakes. The carving has been held by The University of Canterbury’s Engineering Department since 1991. It was stolen from the Jiuhua International Conference Centre in October last year.

Mr Tuarau was part of an early intake to Te Ao Marama, the first National Māori Carving School which would later become Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau at Te Puia.

Resident Master Carver Clive Fugill says carving the replica was made easier by modern technology “From the photos sent up we were able to create an image which showed the exact dimensions and detail.”

The carving took 2 weeks to produce and the only difference is the colour of the base which is slightly darker than the original.

A formal ceremony is being held on September 10th where The University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Sir Tipene O’Regan will place the new carving where the original ‘Te Tāonga o Ruaumoko’ was housed in the school’s Engineering Library.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Maori Language Week Awards carved by Te Puia student

A young Rotorua-based carver is streets ahead.

Te Rangikapiki Fraser is of Ngāti Rangitihi and Ngāti Raukawa descent and although he’s only 23 years old, his whakairo (Māori carving) experience spans a decade, “I have always wanted to carve since I was young and I started when I was 13 while I was at Wharekura (Māori Immersion Secondary School) and have been carving ever since.”

Mr Fraser’s achievements are much the same as carvers twice his age.
This will be the second year that he has been contracted by Te Taurawhiri i te reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) to carve the Māori Language Week Awards – something he is very humble about.

As a student of Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau at Te Puia, Mr Fraser is sure about the path he wants to take “I have come to the Te Puia to further my knowledge and become a better carver so I can teach this art of Whakairo Rākau one day.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Family promotion at Te Puia

Whānau Card entices families to Te Puia

With Matariki on the horizon, family are the main focus of Te Puia’s new promotion the Whānau Card.

For $35 NZD, 2 adults and 4 children have unlimited and unrestricted access into Te Puia for 12 months. The Whānau Card launch is timely for families in the current economic climate.

The card itself is lenticular which creates a very interesting 3D image which will definitely become a collector item.

Whānau Card holders will receive many other benefits at Te Puia including a discount off purchases from the Te Puia retail shop and Pohutu Café. Other partners such as Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Parks, Regal Palms City Resort and Millennium and Kingsgate Hotel have also come on board the Whānau Card with a discount.

The new Te Puia website also has a secure online Whānau Card purchasing facility.

For a full list of benefits and terms and conditions see

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Te Puia offer support to families in need...

Te Puia and the Ronald McDonald House team up to support Whānau

$1 from every Whānau Card sold on Whānau Day this weekend will be donated to Rotorua’s Ronald McDonald House Charity.

Marketing Manager Kelly Stewart says the Whānau Card is a great way to support New Zealand families, “The Ronald McDonald House Charity is a good fit for Te Puia and our new Whānau Card being launched this Sunday [28th June].”

Whānau Card is a premier membership and promotion card exclusive to New Zealanders and gives unlimited entry to Te Puia for two adults and up to four children for $35 NZD.

The Whānau Card launch will coincide with Whānau Day, Sunday 28th June, and also marks Matariki – the theme being family.

Whānau Card buyers on the day will go into the draw to win the major prize of a night at the Duxton Hotel Okawa Bay, a City Ride with Helipro Rotorua and a boat cruise to Te Manupirua hotpools to be drawn at 3pm.

Whānau Day will be full of activities including a Tā Moko and Tāonga Puoro live exhibition, cultural performances and indigenous cuisine – free entry is open to all New Zealand residents.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Maori culture protected by offshore revenue

Tourism is the means, culture is the purpose

Te Puia Chief Executive Te Taru White says while revenue generated by tourism is important, it’s purpose is to breathe life into the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.

“We [Te Puia] are legislatively mandated to the perpetuation of Māori Culture, we have a responsibility and commerce is a means to this end” says Mr White.

Although commerce has taken a decline due to the world economic downfall, the annual Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand Expo has shed a bit of light on the 2010 – 2011, forecast. Mr White says there’s no point in being gloomy, “We’re optimistic because the tourism industry has its ups and downs, it will go up we just have to maintain and be there when it does.”

Whilst visitors from Canada, Asia and the United Kingdom have taken a decline in numbers, United States of America visitation is up by around 12 per cent, the Australian market is up almost 40 per cent and tourists from South East Asia are up 44 per cent.

Te Taru White says sustaining relationships with declining markets is about riding out the slump, “Te Puia is in this for the long haul.”