Jane du Feu and Shep – Craig Shepard look out from under the new maihi of Whakatū Marae.
The marae has been undergoing refurbishment for some years, including new or repaired tukutuku (lattice panels) inside the wharenui (main marae building), and two new maihi (gables) and one new amo (gable support) in the front.
Whakatū Marae chair Jane du Feu said the maihi and amo that had been replaced had suffered the brunt of the weather since 1995, and had begun to show their age.
Du Feu said the marae refurbishment had been planned for a long time, but was not able to proceed quickly due to budget constraints. With the advent of Covid lockdowns last year she said there were “a number of endeavours ready to go”.
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“There were a few things around the marae that were able to go through the Provincial Growth Fund, including the maihi. That was a windfall that wasn’t expected.”
Shep – Craig Shepard, Kaitohutohu Māori for Ngāti Koata Trust, said he was “blessed and lucky” to have been involved in the process.
“It was an honour, it was a blessing. This is a whare that I’ve spent a lot of time in in my life.”
Both he and du Feu said it was important for as many people who frequented the marae to be involved as possible.
Shep referenced a whakatauākī (proverb) from Bruce Stewart: “Ko te tangata i hanga i te whare, engari ko te tuara o te whare i hanga i te tangata”, it’s the people that build the house, but it is the house that builds the people.
The wood was sourced from fallen trees after a strom in Mawhera (Greymouth) a few years ago, and carved by North Island based master carver James Richard, who went to see the timber personally.
Shep said the “major question” everyone asked Richard as he worked was “what does it mean?”.
“His major statement to me and others who asked that was, ‘it’s not a new whare, it’s a renewal of the maihi but it’s not new, so the kōrero (story) has to stay the same’,” Shep said. “That is what he has managed to achieve.”
“The carving before – the waka, the tangata (people) were really pronounced in the carving. That can add to the erosion of the wood, because there are small pieces and places that trap moisture. The new carving has a more flat perspective.”
“There were four waka on either side. Now it’s shaped differently, but he’s got four tauihu, four prows going up the maihi. The kōrero is the same, the tauihu are a representation of the waka, but they also represent where we are – Te Tauihu (the top of the South Island).
He said the amo that was replaced, on the right of the wharenui, had also kept the same kōrero as the previous one.
“It’s not a new whare, it’s just getting new clothes.”