Māori airport design story to feature at Womad

When travellers visit Taranaki’s new airport – to be blessed by iwi on the same day Womad opens on March 13 – they will be immersed in the local hapū’s ancestral story.

The redeveloped New Plymouth Airport is built on what was originally the site of Puketapu hapū’s pa. The new building’s design, using modern materials, reconnects the hapū back to its ancestral land.

Based on the design of internationally-renowned sculptor and artist, Rangi Kipa, and Puketapu hapū, it depicts the ancestral story of Puketapu: Tamarau, “who descended down from the heavens and his maiden, Ronga-ue-roa,” Puketapu Hapū chairperson Theresa Patu says. “From that union came Awanui-a-rangi’.”

Puketapu hapū members work on the initial stages of the tukutuku paneling, which will run for 75m in the redeveloped New Plymouth Airport building.

Patu says every element in the new airport terminal relates to the cultural narrative – from the architecture, to the plantings and colour palette used, to the 75 metres of tukutuku paneling.

“Rangi’s philosophy is that this design will last for 50 years. It’s not going to age,” she says.

“The actual building is constructed in an arch. You have air side and land side, and that is a form of embracing and welcome. It’s not only an airport, it’s the gateway, and Puketapu will extend its manaakitanga to all.”

A dedicated retail space for Māori businesses to showcase their products and talent will be included in the terminal building.

The details of the airport’s unique cultural design will feature in dedicated workshops at Womad’s Te Paepae marque. This is where festival partner, Tui Ora, will host a space profiling cutting-edge food, design and tourism taking place among some of the region’s iwi and hapū enterprises.

Rangi Kipa will himself present workshops titled Hono: How to reconnect people to places on opening night at 5.30pm, 7.15pm and 9.15pm.

Also happening at the Te Paepae site will be:
⦁ Workshops by Kaitahi – an indigenous food business aligned with South Taranaki iwi Nga Rauru that uses traditional Māori ingredients in smoothy drops (Saturday and Sunday, 11.30am)
⦁ Maramataka Māori – the ancient art of reading the moon and night skies (Saturday and Sunday, 5pm)
⦁ Sessions on kumara growing and development of community gardens (Saturday and Sunday, 3pm)

Te Paepae is the cultural heart of WOMAD NZ

Tui Ora economic development relationships manager Ngamata Skipper says iwi in Taranaki are involved in many exciting initiatives and businesses, and Womad is a perfect place to highlight these achievements

“We have a long association with Womad and know that Te Paepae as a destination is the cultural heartbeat of the festival. This year, we wanted to be proactive in different ways and present a face of success and enterprise,” Skipper says.

“Tui Ora is about helping to support and promote Māori enterprise and development. This is because economic development is a key foundation to whānau ora (family health). Happy, healthy whānau need to have economic independence to prosper.”

MAIN PHOTO CAPTION: Womad NZ is on from March 13 to 15 at New Plymouth’s beautiful Brooklands Park. Photo credit: Charlotte Curd

Words by Rochelle West