Te Puru School embarks on new Māori carving project


In the small coastal settlement of Te Puru, north of Thames, on Te Tara o te Whai/Coromandel Peninsula, a local primary school is bringing the concept of Kotahitanga (Unity) to the forefront with a unique pou whenua (traditional Māori carved wooden post) carving and mural project. 

 

Te Puru School provides education for children in Years 1 to 8, and has a roll of approximately 160 students, including 31 Māori students and 31 students from a range of other nationalities. 

 

This isn’t the first time Te Puru School students have participated in a public art project of this nature. In February 2020, they worked with well-known Thames-based multimedia artist, Fatu Feu’u to adorn park benches with carvings, as a way of incorporating art into the public space. 

 

This was the students’ first carving opportunity and a chance to learn new skills, alongside an established artist. The benches are situated in Thornton Bay for local residents to admire and use. 

 

The project was co-led by Fatu and recently retired school principal and community project leader, Janet Jones, and was part of a bigger project implemented by Thornton Bay Projects Group, Thames-Coromandel District Council, NZTA and local iwi, Ngāti Tamaterā. 

 

Following on from this project, Fatu and Janet embarked on further conversations for other public art projects that would involve Te Puru school students and Thornton Bay residents. 

 

An opportunity arose when a large Totara log was donated to Te Puru School by Wilson Bay Farms. Janet and Fatu immediately thought this would be ideal for a second carving project - the creation of a pou whenua to be installed on the Te Puru School grounds. 

 

The whakatauki (Māori proverb) underpinning Te Puru School is: Whakatupuria nga ika iti i roto i a matou wai marino "To let all young fish grow strong in our calm waters", to which this new public art project speaks to. 

 

“By doing artworks that are in their own environment and working with significant artists, they get to really connect with their local environment, they get to have pride in it, especially when they contribute to it,” explains Janet. 

 

The designs for the pou whenua, which will be installed just inside the school grounds by the bus bay, have an overarching theme of Kotahitanga. Kotahitanga is the Māori concept of togetherness, identifying as one, extending awhina (support) to everyone, and receiving the same in return. 

 

To portray this, the pou whenua will have 3 distinct parts. The top third is to be carved by Darin Jenkins and will incorporate the Māori ancestry of the area. Darrin is a Thames-based artist who has created significant carvings and sculptures, including one by the Kauaeranga River Bridge and the one preceding the Kopu Bridge. He is Head Carver at UkiProducts44, the business he runs from the ‘Big Red Shed’ in Thames, producing contemporary and traditional style Māori carvings. 

 

The middle third will be carved by Fatu Feu’u and will incorporate elements of Pasifika design and stories. And the bottom third will be carved by Paul Silvester, and will encompass European/Pakeha elements. Paul is a Thames-based mural artist and designer, and Chairperson of the Thames Public Art Trust. Six male students (12 - 13 yrs old) from Te Puru School who have shown interest in increasing their carving skills, will be assisting Paul to carve the bottom section. 

 

All three of the artists involved are giving their time voluntarily and local iwi, Ngāti Tamaterā have formally blessed the Totara log and approved the design concepts, before the carving of the pou whenua commences. With the support of the Thames-Coromandel District Council - Creative Communities Scheme funds have been allocated for the installation of the finished pou whenua, by Watsons Engineering. 

 

In addition to the carving, a mural has also been planned which will be installed on the wall behind the pou whenua. The mural will follow the same theme of Kotahitanga and is being designed by Fatu and Janet. This will allow more students to be involved in the art making process, with each class being assigned a section of the mural to paint.  

 

Janet is thrilled that the students will be able to be involved with another meaningful public art project. 

 

“Fatu has been very involved in the prevention of youth suicide. This is how the whole concept came about. We were discussing what we could do as a community to help bring those statistics down.

 

“We hope that by working alongside established artists and other adults, the students will start to build connections and resilience. Art is a great medium for strengthening children and increasing a sense of belonging.

 

“We’re really pleased to have the Creative Communities Scheme help bring this project to life. It certainly will be a combined effort of many people, and we’re looking forward to unveiling the completed pou whenua and mural to the public later this year”.

 

The Te Puru School pou whenua carving and mural project is set to be completed by the end of 2020, with the recent lockdown restrictions delaying the start of the project. 

 

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the project as it happens, and share details of the unveiling later this year. Stay tuned! 


Contact info:

info.creativecoromandel@gmail.com

https://www.tepuru.school.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/www.tepuru.school.nz/




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