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.
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”.