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Meeting house celebrates 20th anniversary

4 December 2006

Victoria University meeting house celebrates 20th anniversary

Victoria University’s iconic meeting house, Te Tumu Te Herenga Waka, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week, showcasing its significance to Wellington.

The 20th anniversary celebrations for the opening of the meeting house in 1986 will take place on Wednesday 6 December at the marae grounds on Kelburn Parade. Te Herenga Waka Marae, of which Te Tumu is the centrepiece, was opened in 1980.

A highlight of the day will be the unveiling of a new flagpole, carved by Takirirangi Smith, the master carver who also produced the carvings for the meeting house.

Victoria’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Māori), Professor Piri Sciascia, says the meeting house and marae are vital to University life.

“The meeting house and marae is a home away from home for Māori students, a place where they can gather and where tikanga Maori prevails. It contributes to their study, culture, and literature among other things and is a key resource for Te Kawa a Māui, our School of Māori Studies, in its teaching programme.

“It also fosters an understanding of the Māori culture for the whole University community. As the ‘hitching post of canoes’ it’s not just used in ceremonial roles—all staff are formally welcomed on to the marae and, for example, staff and students from the School of Architecture come and stay as part of their coursework.”

Professor Sciascia says the celebrations will honour people significant to the building of the meeting house and establishing the marae.

“Throughout the year we have built up to this event with a series of seminars based around Māori knowledge. It will culminate in a day of celebration to honour those who have made a significant contribution to the establishment of the Marae.”

When Victoria University opened Te Herenga Waka Marae in 1980, it was the only marae on a New Zealand university campus.

There will also be tributes from various iwi groups with direct links to the marae, as well as from the University’s six faculties. Alumni and student representatives will also speak.

The whānau of Te Herenga Waka will also make presentations to noteworthy figures to the marae, such as Takirirangi Smith and Professor Hirini Moko Mead, the first professor of Māori Studies at Victoria, and in New Zealand.

“These celebrations are not just for the Māori staff and students. They are about the University coming together as one, with everyone taking part.”

The meeting house will also play host to Te Hui Whakapūmau, the University’s marae-based graduation ceremony on Friday 8 December. Around 45 students will graduate at this ceremony, with three PhDs being conferred and an honorary Doctor of Literature degree being granted to kōhanga reo pioneer Iritana Te Rangi Tawhiwhirangi.

Ako Pai, the University’s marae at the Karori Campus, celebrates its 20th anniversary next year.

ENDS

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