[281121WCLGTeao-1.JPG] People gather to hear about the tukutuku project, with panels ready for use lined up along the wall. Photos / Lewis Gardner [281121WCLGTeao-3.JPG] Doreen Bennett is leading Te Ao Hou Marae's tukutuku project. [021221WCSup01.JPG] Bennett harvested and dyed harakeke, ready for use. Photo / Laurel Stowell Laurel Stowell email@example.com
A project to make new tukutuku panels for Te Ao Hou Marae will pass traditional skills on to key families in a new generation, Doreen Bennett says.
The families met at the marae on November 28, for karakia by Jim Tahuparae and kōrero from chairman Geoff Hipango to start the project. After that 15 of them took the materials prepared for making the panels home, and started work.
If it were not for the Covid-19 pandemic making them would have happened in a wānanga, project leader Bennett said.
"In wānanga you hear those old waiata and different karakia. You start to link your whakapapa. All of those things happen."
Te Puawaitanga, the wharenui at the marae, is relatively new. It was built in the 1970s under the leadership of Henry Bennett. It had a few tukutuku panels, made in the days of the Access and MAccess training schemes of the 1980s, under the direction of Piki Waretini.
Making more and larger one has been planned for two years.
"We were just waiting for the right time to start pulling things together, and this year everyone seemed to be ready to do something," Bennett said.
There are 24 large panels in all, 12 for each side of the wharenui. Their bases were made by Marty and Marilyn Vreede, using wood and hardboard. Each panel has a network of holes ready to have fibre threaded through them, and kākaho (slats) to thread it over.
Bennett harvested harakeke (flax) with the right karakia, and dyed it in black, yellow and red. She chose the 12 designs, which will be mirrored from one side to another.
Making the panels for the wharenui was meaningful for those chosen to do it, she said.
"They were just so honoured to be a part of it. So was I."
Bennett got her knowledge when the first panels were made and she was a child, expected to whakarongo (listen) and titiro (watch), rather than ask lots of questions.
"They used to tell us the stories and the different kōrero - once."
It was the days of Ngā Puna Waihanga, a new national body for Māori artists and writers, with Cliff Whiting and Paratene Matchitt.
"I even had the opportunity to sit with Rangimārie Hetet during those times. She was 'the' weaver in the country," Bennett said.
She looked at panels at other Whanganui marae and the families took home paper copies of the designs she wanted. They were designs George Waretini and her dad Bill Bennett and uncle Henry Bennett would have approved.
There's the patiki (flounder), and roimata toroa (tears of the albatross).
"When you have them on the wall they flow real nicely together. The stories are there, and they have been told and told over time."
Most of those who took panels home were descended from the original teachers. Adrian Poa, a descendant of Rangimārie Hetet, wanted one. The makers brought with them connections to Parikino, Pākaraka and Kauangaroa marae.
Bennett is betting one panel won't be enough for some of them.
"They will want another one. Doing one is just getting a taste," she said.
When finished, the 12 panels will be put up in Te Puawaitanga, with a final hui for the project in late February.
"It's a completely new look for the whare, and it's just going to have such an impact when you walk in."
The nine panels that are still at the marae will be worked on there, with opportunities for kura and members of the public to watch. They can also been seen in progress on a Facebook page.
"I just think this is such a great opportunity. It doesn't happen often," Bennett said.
Other improvements are happening at the marae, some as the result of a $129,000 Provincial Growth Fund grant.
The mahau (porch) in front of the wharenui is being extended, and will have blinds that can be lowered to enclose it for tangi - saving the expense of hiring a marquee.
The kitchen and wharepaku (ablutions block) are getting an upgrade, and the wharenui has new carpet.