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Carvings unveiled at UCOL

Dawn ceremony held to officially bless carvings of Te Amorangi Whare. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

A beautiful new whare has emerged like a phoenix from the ashes in a dawn ceremony at UCOL.

The final touches of Te Amorangi whare at Whakaoriori Marae, including newly restored carvings, were unveiled on Thursday.

Over 70 people attended the early morning service led by Rangitane and UCOL leaders.

Kaumatua Mike Kawana said several whare carvings had deteriorated over time with exposure to the elements, turning them into ashes, and the ancestors now atop Te Amorangi reinforced the message of working together to achieve goals.

Rangitane ancestor Whatonga now stands proudly on the tekoteko [the carving on the front gable of Te Amorangi], while Ngati Kahungunu ancestor Tamatea Ariki Nui is depicted on the other side of the tekoteko.

The ashes from the original 1994 carvings were buried in the garden area of the marae atea [forecourt] by Rangitane o Wairarapa chief executive Mihirangi Hollings and UCOL chief executive Linda Sissons.

Whare upgrades began in April 2021, with the goal for Te Amorangi to host overnight stays. The whare now sleeps up to 40 people and sports new bathroom, kitchen, and heating facilities.

Speakers from Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu iwi acknowledged the restoration work of the whare carvings led by Stephen [Tipene] Kawana who worked as a protege on the originals in the early 1990s.

UCOL Wairarapa director Carrie McKenzie said she was proud of the work to enhance Whakaoriori Marae.

“The Whakaoriori Marae plays a key part in our campus culture and identity. UCOL Wairarapa is proud to be the kaitiaki of a very special building and space, a marae and a wharenui, and the fact that the tipuna of our two iwi, Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu are looking over and after their uri [descendants].

“All akonga [students] are given a special welcome here each year, and each semester. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved with the renovations and the restoration of the carvings. It is wonderful to see Whatonga take his rightful place on top of Te Amorangi.”

UCOL Wairarapa held an awakening in February 2022 so the marae could be used while the carvings were being completed.

The whare has supported students for over three decades, as Wairarapa Community Polytechnic for the first 10 years and then as UCOL Wairarapa for the following 21.

Whakaoriori Marae was originally opened in 1991 by Cannon Wi Te Tau Huata, a Ngati Kahungungu rangatira.

Guests at the opening included MP Whetu Tirakatene-Sullivan, Ngati Kahungunu leader Ben Couch, and Rangitane rangatira Koro Kuki Rimene.

Mihirangi Hollings – now chief executive of Rangitane o Wairarapa – was the young wahine [puhi] who customarily entered the wharenui first to lift the tapu at the original ceremony.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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