Indigenous art to ease distress

New learning space in Gisborne CBD showcases traditional Maori artworks.

New learning space in Gisborne CBD showcases traditional Maori artworks.

Nick Tupara, Mark Kopua and Di Kopua at the opening of Te Kurahuna Whare Wananga learning space and art gallery last week. Pictures by Shaan Te Kani
Ralph Walker is pictured next to a photograph of his late uncle and renowned master carver Hone Taiapa and the last waka huia (carved treasure box) that he made. The piece is a feature of the current exhibition at Te Kurahuna Whare Wananga.

A new learning space that uses indigenous knowledge to help people in distress has opened with an exhibition showcasing some of the finest traditional Maori artworks in Tairawhiti.

Located in the Gisborne CBD, Te Kurahuna Whare Wananga is a learning space of traditional Maori philosophy, art and history — and so much more.

Te Kurahuna is part of an indigenous approach to helping people in distress — whether that is mental health and addiction, or any other type of distress.

It has a traditional focus, while its sibling, Te Kuwatawata — located next door on Peel Street — shares indigenous learning, but has a contemporary approach by bringing health providers together to help meet the needs of the community.

“This kaupapa is really quite special and it is open to everyone,” says Te Kurahuna mataora (change agent) Nick Tupara.

“Te Kurahuna refers to hidden history, history that has been hidden because of our colonial background.

“But we have a responsibility to share it. That is the kaupapa (ethos) of Te Kurahuna. To wananga (learn and discuss) about these hidden histories.

“So here we have a space for traditional art and wananga (learning) to strengthen whanau.

“You don’t have to be an artist to come here. You might come here to learn, to do art or you might just feel the wairua (spirit) in this place. You might just want to come in and have a chat.

“A place like this opens people’s eyes and minds. All of this speaks to a healthy tikanga (customary practices) and healthy korero (discussions).

“It’s about the wholeness of a person.”

The latest exhibition is reflective of how traditional Maori philosophies can help create pathways forward, says Mr Tupara.

‘Ma te ariki, ma te tauira’

“This exhibition speaks of ‘ma te ariki, ma te tauira’, which is a philosophy based on a karakia (traditional chant) and relates to a teacher/master (ariki) and a student (tauira).

“It’s about passing things on and sharing. It speaks of the need to transfer and share knowledge so the legacy and culture will be carried on.

“If you look around you will see we have a painting by master artist Derek Lardelli and next to that is a piece from Randall Leach, who was a former student and the very first ‘ruanuku’ or top student at Toihoukura School of Maori Arts (Eastern Institute of Technology).

“We have a traditional cloak made by a grandmother, and next to that we have woven pieces from her daughter and granddaughter. That is whakapapa (genealogy).

“So when you come into this house of learning, people are among this traditional knowledge and they learn about culture and history.

“When you can be strong culturally then you can share with others who aren’t so strong, are a bit lost or disengaged. And there’s that relationship again between the teacher and student.”

Mr Tupara says while some of the people featured in the exhibition have passed on, they are still here.

“They are alive in their mokopuna, their tauira (students), and their teachings. They are still alive in the oils, feathers and fibres of the work we see today.

“We utilise art to tell and express our stories, and their stories live on.”

Some of the featured artists that continue to live on in legacy include renowned master carvers and brothers, the late Pine and Hone Taiapa.

Their stories are represented by the last waka huia (carved treasure box) that Hone Taiapa made, as well as a collection of cassette tapes that feature oral history recordings of Pine Taiapa.

Te Kurahuna is also a living and active space where tamoko (traditional Maori tattooing) and whakairo (traditional Maori carving) are performed and taught, says Mr Tupara.

“It is also a space where artists who have these teachings can come to gather and share knowledge.”

A new learning space that uses indigenous knowledge to help people in distress has opened with an exhibition showcasing some of the finest traditional Maori artworks in Tairawhiti.

Located in the Gisborne CBD, Te Kurahuna Whare Wananga is a learning space of traditional Maori philosophy, art and history — and so much more.

Te Kurahuna is part of an indigenous approach to helping people in distress — whether that is mental health and addiction, or any other type of distress.

It has a traditional focus, while its sibling, Te Kuwatawata — located next door on Peel Street — shares indigenous learning, but has a contemporary approach by bringing health providers together to help meet the needs of the community.

“This kaupapa is really quite special and it is open to everyone,” says Te Kurahuna mataora (change agent) Nick Tupara.

“Te Kurahuna refers to hidden history, history that has been hidden because of our colonial background.

“But we have a responsibility to share it. That is the kaupapa (ethos) of Te Kurahuna. To wananga (learn and discuss) about these hidden histories.

“So here we have a space for traditional art and wananga (learning) to strengthen whanau.

“You don’t have to be an artist to come here. You might come here to learn, to do art or you might just feel the wairua (spirit) in this place. You might just want to come in and have a chat.

“A place like this opens people’s eyes and minds. All of this speaks to a healthy tikanga (customary practices) and healthy korero (discussions).

“It’s about the wholeness of a person.”

The latest exhibition is reflective of how traditional Maori philosophies can help create pathways forward, says Mr Tupara.

‘Ma te ariki, ma te tauira’

“This exhibition speaks of ‘ma te ariki, ma te tauira’, which is a philosophy based on a karakia (traditional chant) and relates to a teacher/master (ariki) and a student (tauira).

“It’s about passing things on and sharing. It speaks of the need to transfer and share knowledge so the legacy and culture will be carried on.

“If you look around you will see we have a painting by master artist Derek Lardelli and next to that is a piece from Randall Leach, who was a former student and the very first ‘ruanuku’ or top student at Toihoukura School of Maori Arts (Eastern Institute of Technology).

“We have a traditional cloak made by a grandmother, and next to that we have woven pieces from her daughter and granddaughter. That is whakapapa (genealogy).

“So when you come into this house of learning, people are among this traditional knowledge and they learn about culture and history.

“When you can be strong culturally then you can share with others who aren’t so strong, are a bit lost or disengaged. And there’s that relationship again between the teacher and student.”

Mr Tupara says while some of the people featured in the exhibition have passed on, they are still here.

“They are alive in their mokopuna, their tauira (students), and their teachings. They are still alive in the oils, feathers and fibres of the work we see today.

“We utilise art to tell and express our stories, and their stories live on.”

Some of the featured artists that continue to live on in legacy include renowned master carvers and brothers, the late Pine and Hone Taiapa.

Their stories are represented by the last waka huia (carved treasure box) that Hone Taiapa made, as well as a collection of cassette tapes that feature oral history recordings of Pine Taiapa.

Te Kurahuna is also a living and active space where tamoko (traditional Maori tattooing) and whakairo (traditional Maori carving) are performed and taught, says Mr Tupara.

“It is also a space where artists who have these teachings can come to gather and share knowledge.”

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