New home for Māori arts centre

The Rangimārie Māori Arts and Crafts Centre has a new home in Marfell Park.

The traditional Māori art group has been teaching rāranga (weaving) and bone and wood whakairo (carving) from its building on Centennial Drive for almost 40 years.

The buildings were moved last week to a new site at NPDC’s Marfell Park and work is being done to the site before the centre reopens in two to three months.

The Rangimārie Māori Arts and Crafts Centre before its big move

Rangimārie chairman and carver Barry Te Whatu said the support of the community had been crucial to the group’s relocation.

“The financial support has been huge,” Te Whatu said.

“I think we’re also fortunate that our senior members had the foresight to save for a rainy day.”

He said the move is an opportunity for the centre to become a community hub for Marfell, while encouraging a new generation to pick up Toi Māori (Māori art and knowledge transmission).

“The group has always been open to anyone from around the mountain. It has never been specific to one hapū or one iwi,” Te Whatu said.

“I trained here and now my grandson’s here, and his mum used to hang out here. So it’s a legacy thing and we want that to continue in Marfell by building relationships with the schools and community groups, and showing there is value to what we do – long-term education, the arts and wairua.”

The group’s building houses important art and taonga. “We’re not us without the building in its entirety – it’s a holder of who we are and what we’re about.”

“We started in 1975 when a group of women who wanted to learn to weave got together at Parihaka, and in 1980 the group sourced this building – Hāwera High School’s art room – as part of the koha for a project at the school, so it holds significance.”

The move was made possible with the support of Port Taranaki and the TSB Community Trust, as well as Rangimārie’s own financial contribution.

Port Taranaki commercial manager Ross Dingle said Rangimārie had made a long and significant contribution to the Taranaki community and the port was pleased to be able to help the group continue that work.

“Rangimārie has played a big part in ensuring that the skill of traditional Māori weaving and carving is kept alive and taught to the next generations. We’ve been pleased to be able to help them shift to their new site and know they will be an important part of the Marfell community,” Dingle said.

Work by current and former members of Rangimārie includes tukutuku panels, stone carvings and wood carvings at Pukeiti gardens, Aotearoa Marae, Puke Ariki Landing, the NPDC building and at a number of Taranaki schools. The most recent wood carving project was a waharoa (entranceway) at Highlands Intermediate, which was unveiled in June.

Words by Warrick Quinn