Community-built waka reflects school’s shared history

Issue: Volume 98, Number 9

Posted: 30 May 2019
Reference #: 1H9uef

Each morning as students walk through the entrance of Kaiwaka School in Kaipara, Northland, they pass a waka – Te Waka Rangimārie o Kaiwaka – hand-carved just for them.

The taurapa(stern) has six waves for the Kaipara with the maunga (mountain) Pukeraroro and three notches representing the flounder. There are two ribs for Ira tangata and Ira Atua. In between the ribs are binary code and a computer mouse representing e-technology and learning, with three figures below symbolising sports and community. Photos supplied by Josie Gritten Photography

Standing more than five metres tall and 25 metres long, the waka was built by parents and students at the school. A generous donation from the Oneiri Farm Trust made the project possible.

The entrance area and the main frame of the waka were designed by local landscape artist Benji Woodman and constructed with the help of the school community. The prow and stern were carved by local sculptor and carver Tim Codyre after careful deliberation about the symbols and elements that would best represent the children.

“Our school motto is ‘Towards Tomorrow Together’,” says Kaiwaka School Principal Rosie Ellis, “and we wanted an entrance that represents the history of the area as well as the present children.

“It took a bit of time, but we found kaupapa representatives of all our whānau and our community, iwi, and the elders of the area. We had a big chat about what we wanted,” she says.

“We wanted to include where they are heading in the future, based on being a community that is steeped in Māori culture.”

Depictions of sports and digital technology were included alongside Māori legends and stories, as these were important to the children.

Shyla May Akuhata-Brown, a Year 4 student at Kaiwaka School, says that the carvings remind her of her tīpuna (ancestors) and their marae.

“It feels powerful,” says Sehraj Chhappyan, aged 10.

Purpose-built structure

Purpose-building the structure as a ‘split waka’ ensured that the school’s entrance could also be used as a stage for assemblies and performances.

The waka was formally unveiled on 25 February this year, with invited parents and community members in attendance. The ceremony was led by kaumātua Reverend Ben Hita, assisted by kaumātua Reverend Paul Tautari, and students unveiled the carvings and performed a haka on the stage.

Three months on, Rosie is pleased with the way the waka at the school entrance has connected with the spirit of the school and the community.

“The kids treat it very reverently. It’s not like your average playground apparatus, it’s somewhere special.”

Region’s history serves as inspiration

One of the reasons the Kaiwaka School Board of Trustees chose to build a waka when enhancing the school’s entrance was the importance of waka in the development of the Kaipara area.

“A lot of the transportation around the area [using waka] was for food – and also for knowledge, and we connect with the waka in that way,” says Principal Rosie Ellis.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:45 am, 30 May 2019

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