Tēnei Au – Uniqueness, Identity, Life

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10 September 2017

Expressing himself through art has been a journey of discovery for 15-year-old Livai and other local rangatahi.

His artwork is currently on display in Council’s galleria as part of an exhibition which provides a special glimpse into the lives of 20 rangatahi (youth) from Rotorua’s alternative education centre Kōkiri.

Kōkiri, which was established by Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust, works with rangatahi who are referred from local schools. The centre supports and facilitates their learning so that they can transition back into school or into other education or employment options.  

The aim of the Tēnei Au exhibition was for the rangatahi to explore their story through the creation of visual whakapapa (geneology).

Each work is a graphic description of who they are, where they have come from and where they are heading.

Livai created a piece of art that represents the discovery of his heritage and the sense of mana (pride) that it gave him.

“My art represents my koro Wiremu Pere and how he was a big influence in the whole of Poverty Bay and the east coast.

“It is easier to explain something when you can see it. Sharing my art with the public was hard because I kept thinking about what other people would think.

“I’m now thinking of going on a te reo Māori course and I’m interested in building.”

Kōkiri kaiako (teacher) Natasha Ruttley says art is about expressing yourself when words get in the way. 

“Oratorical and visual language forms pre-date the written word. Art is an intrinsic part of culture the world over, so what better way for the rangatahi to express themselves and arrive at a sense of awareness of the good within.

“During this activity we saw growth, we saw discovery, we saw understanding and we saw empowerment - and the greatest thing? We saw joy.

“Happy rangatahi are engaged rangatahi,” she says.

Kōkiri supports up to 37 rangatahi at one time. They stay at the centre for two or three terms until they are ready to transition back to school, training or employment.

The learning is tailored, the centre works together with the rangatahi and their whānau (family) to suit each individual’s needs and goals.

Livai says Kōkiri has been able to help him more than the mainstream school environment.

“The staff are there for all of us,” he says.

Kaiako Natasha says having the artworks on display has given the rangatahi a sense of mana.

“When your mana has suffered for so long and then someone says ‘You are capable, may we show the world?’ the effect snowballs and the mana blossoms once more.

“Our rangatahi are preparing to inherit the world we are leaving them and at present they are considering their dreams and ideas. ”Our rangatahi have a vision for the legacy.”

Tēnei Au is a free exhibition in Council’s galleria (first floor) open to the public on week days from 8am to 4.30pm.

It will be on display until 17 October.

[Above – Livai’s artwork and below, his korero about the story it tells]

Wipere toku Koroua Rangatira:

My mahi has changed my life. Before, I was never really proud and never had a reason to be but now because of my research I know there is so much proud history. It has taken me ages to research this information but it is a piece of work that I actually really feel is interesting and I am a different person because of it.

Wiremu Pere lived in the 1800s and was born in 1837. He died in the 1900s and lived a very full life.  Pere stands for the word Bell which is from England where his father was from. Wipere’s mother was Riria Mauaranui, she was Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Porou and was born a chieftainess. She was a woman of mana.  My greatness comes not just from Wiremu but from many lines of whakapapa and I also claim Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and Tainui waka.  The Maori design is the logo that Derek Lardelli a famous artist created for the Wiremu Pere Trust. The design makes me proud because it is the symbol of our family and our family land that owned by Wipere. The design represents the three baskets of Maori knowledge which symbolises Wi’s intelligence. The colour red represents the sacred blood lines and the rest resembles the worlds of light and darkness.  

I am interested in my culture now and all the ancient stories of my people. I am hungry to learn more it is motivating me to carry on Wipere’s work.

(Photo in story - Livai with his teacher Kōkiri kaiako (teacher) Natasha Ruttley)

Page reviewed: 07 Jun 2017 12:01pm