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  • Antonia Quinn

Te Kāhui Toi honoured for their innovative design of university Marae

Te Kāhui Toi were honoured at Massey’s University Research Awards, where they were awarded the 2021 University Medal for Team Research. A celebration was held at Te Whare Pūkākā on Massey’s Pukeahu campus, a night for many tauira Māori and staff to enjoy the success of fellow colleagues, friends and mentors.


Their success at the 2021 Best Design Awards and the 2022 Wellington Architecture Awards was also acknowledged. They are the masterminds behind the innovative design of Te Rau Karamu Marae, a majestic kāinga that solidifies unity between institute, whenua and tauira on the Pukeahu Campus of Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa (Massey University).


Takuta Ferris, Principal Advisor - Māori in the Office of the DVC, said that "without the support and endorsement of mana whenua you don't have the necessary connections to tie its people, communities and house to the land that it's on." He also said that "we get to share our culture and by sharing we get to maintain our mana."


Professor Ngatai Taepa expressed what it means to be part of the project with Te Kāhui Toi, representing our world and the whakairo part of the project. "We were able to legitimise practices from Te Ao Māori and created a collective outcome."


In 2021, the Designers Institute of NZ awarded Te Kāhui Toi’s mahi with their Toi Taonga (Gold/Purple Award), a Gold for Textiles and a Silver for Lighting, which is testament to how much mātauranga māori can amplify spaces that are commonly Pākehā.


Professor Margaret Petty, the new PVC for Toi Rauwhārangi said that the marae "creates a new cultural heart to the Pukeahu Campus … a safe home for our mātauranga Māori where we can explore and share these knowledges. "This is vital for students that walk into an institute's doors for the first time. They want to be seen, supported and accepted in their triumphs and their struggles. Guidance is a priority when it comes to helping tauira get the best possible experience during their studies.

Taepa emphasised in his thank you speech how much tauira were the priority. "It was always important for our elders that you [tauira] were at the forefront of our thoughts. Everything that we did was with the land that we stand upon in mind and was purposeful for providing this space for you to feel comfortable and be yourselves."


Te Rau Karamu was designed with the intention to be unique and specific, crafted in a way that is personally ours and tells stories within its walls like no other marae. It's not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and Te Kāhui Toi’s envisionment of ‘creating a space where we can be ourselves’ is the ultimate tautoko for future tauira Māori aspiring to be unapologetically them, at Massey’s Pukeahu campus.


"Studying at a Pākehā Institution has been hard, but in my final year I feel like I've finally got my foot down," says Ange Oliver (Ngāti Raukawa ki Te Tonga, Tūwharetoa, Te Tai Tokerau). For the 4th year Fine Arts tauira, experiencing the marae allows so much more than what a classroom has to offer. Simply, Ange just felt the need to be. "To just be there in the wharenui, there were no expectations…it takes layers of being there to gain an understanding."


Christian Hawira-Seanoa (Tūwharetoa, Te Atihaunui ā Pāpārangi, Tokelau) was proud to support the kaupapa. As another 4th year tauira in the Fine Arts degree, being able to see the excellence of Te Kāhui Toi, he felt like the marae was there to be appreciated, to accommodate and to advocate our mātauranga māori.


And for Master of Fine Arts tauira, Matt Tini (Ngāti Kahungunu, Waikato), "it feels like there is a priority for students to be there. It helps me feel more connected to this rohe and this marae makes me feel like I have a place here."

Being in these spaces reminds many tauira to continue following their aspirations. Seeing their teachers and familiar Māori faces being recognised for just being themselves and sharing their kete of knowledge is testament to the mauri that is cultivated when tauira are in a comfortable environment. It’s also an added bonus for Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa and its tauira, encouraging the development of better understanding Te Ao Māori and the drive to becoming a Te Tiriti Led Institution.


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.