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Celebrating 60 Years Of The NZ Māori Arts & Crafts Institute Act­

Sixty years ago the 1963 New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute Act was passed by Parliament, making it an important time to reflect on its legacy and what lies ahead for the future.

The New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute (NZMACI) at Te Puia in Rotorua is home to the schools of Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau (National Wood Carving School), Te Takapū o Rotowhio (National Stone and Bone Carving School) and Te Rito o Rotowhio (the National Weaving School).

New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute general manager Eraia Kiel says it is a huge achievement for te iwi Māori that NZMACI has delivered on the Act’s responsibilities to protect, preserve and promote Māori culture.

“As we reflect on the last 60 years of cultural perpetuation, I also want to pause and acknowledge that long before this Act, our people, especially the kaiārahi (guides) were instrumental in sharing the knowledge and traditions of Māori culture with tourism manuhiri (visitors) from the late 1800s. This history includes guiding of the Pink and White terraces, till the eruption of Mt Tarawera, then re-establishing here at Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley.

“The great Māori leader of our time Tā (Sir) Āpirana Ngata and our kaumātua of Te Arawa played a crucial role in fostering cultural understanding, appreciation, and the continued survival of our rich heritage. They were pivotal in the 1926 establishment of Te Ao Mārama, the first carving school at Ōhinemutu and then at Whittaker Road which closed in 1937 with the Great Depression and World War II.

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“I think if they saw what we’ve achieved since the 1963 Act was introduced and since the wānanga was built here at Whakarewarewa, they’d be extremely proud. I believe over this time there’s been some great leaders, tumu (head of schools), pouako (tutors), tauira (students) and graduates who have gone on to do great things with perpetuating culture.

“He rau ringa, e oti ai, the many hands that have contributed,” says Kiel.

“The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute is not just an organisation; it is a living testament to the resilience, creativity, and wisdom of our tūpuna. It serves as a beacon, guiding us forward and reminding us of our responsibility to protect and perpetuate our cultural heritage.

“We have high levels of interest for our intense and very practical hands-on learning programmes where qualifications are conferred by our Masters.”

The Act also refers to tourism and Kiel explains that Te Puia’s visitor experience shares the promotion and perpetuation of Māori culture in a special way, as fourth and fifth generation kaiārahi (guides) take manuhiri (visitors) on tours of Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, Rotowhio Marae, Kiwi Conservation Centre and through NZMACI with a iwi perspective and personal touch. It is a unique model where the commercial tourism supports the cultural development functions and vice versa.

“The fundamental values of manaakitanga - looking after the mana of others, that’s always been our journey of responsibility as mana whenua, to look after anyone that comes into our home.”

Kiel says NZMACI needs to keep its focus into the future, to keep raising the bar and to continue to be a shining beacon for Māori culture and the rest of the world.

Today, the impact of Te Puia | NZMACI is felt far beyond its immediate horizons, empowering indigenous cultures from around the world and strengthening the New Zealand story in important international tourism and trade markets.

“We’re extremely grateful to have people like Clive Fugill, who was one of seven students in the very first intake, helping to guide us into the future,” Kiel explains.

Tohunga Whakairo Rākau Clive Fugill says the kaupapa has always been to teach tauira the traditional arts, so they can take them back to their own iwi and pass on the knowledge.

He reflects on some of the lessons he was taught from the first head of NZMACI from 1967, Tohunga Whakairo Rākau Hone Taiapa, that he now passes on to others.

“Hone would say, the man who makes all the mistakes will learn everything, the man who makes no mistakes will learn nothing.”

Fugill explains that Hone would come and have a look, see what the issue was, and he would always show you how to fix it - he would say “there’s always a way”.

“I stuck to him like glue to get as much information as possible, it’s now time to pass it on,” says Fugill.

“In our first year as students in 1967 we carved tekoteko first using the solid Tōtara from telegraph poles that had been taken down. Three months in, we finished off what was left of the work on Saint Faith’s Church, we also worked on Hangarau meeting house in Tauranga, one of my marae from home. We did carvings for the international hotel at Whakarewarewa, Parawai Marae at Ngongotahā for the Whatumairangi Meeting House, then the DB Hotel carving tukutuku or turapa. I still have records of those frames. We then focused on smaller works, patu, wakahuia, sewing boxes – we had a good grounding in everything.”

Fugill says it is important to also reflect on Te Takapū and Te Rito o te Rotowhio. He shares that Emily Schuster, NZMACI’s first ever head weaver, taught over 5,000 women how to weave. “It’s a huge legacy, it’s helped a lot of people in a lot of ways.

“It’s been an honour and a pleasure to be part of the journey, I’ve had an amazing career, I’ve stuck to the Act and the ideologies of what my master taught me and I pass it on.

“You come here to learn this art to pass it on to the next generation, as Hone Taiapa said.”

Te Puia | NZMACI celebrated the 60-year milestone with a morning karakia Whakatō Mauri, a mihi by Clive Fugill on the Act and then a haka performed by students at Te Aro-nui-a-Rua meeting house. There will be a range of commemorative events and initiatives over the next 12 months.

Fugill has developed brand marks for the 25, 40 and 50-year milestones. NZMACI is excited to release his 60-year design. It features two hands cupping, holding and embracing the pōito (the pōito is the NZMACI logo). This represents holding and embracing mātauranga Māori knowledge. The cord between the hands represents the whakatauākī: Hei pupuri i te aho o te wānanga, Hei kawe i te kura huna a Rua. Hold fast to the thread of knowledge.

While 60 years of history is being recognised, we also acknowledge that Parliament enacted the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Vesting Act in 2020 with mana whenua owners through the Te Puia NZMACI Limited Partnership. The partners are Wāhiao Tūhourangi o Whakarewarewa, the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust, and Ngāti Hurungaterangi, Ngāti Taeotū, and Ngāti Te Kahu o Ngāti Whakaue. Vesting means that Te Puia | NZMACI is iwi owned.

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