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A heartbeat on Queen St

Master carver Wayne Pitau working on a waharoa, or gateway, for Masterton Intermediate School. PHOTOS/STEVE RENDLE

Knocking on the door of Maori culture at Te Patukituki

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There’s a bridge to another world on Masterton’s Queen St – or more correctly another part of Wairarapa’s world.

At first glance, Te Patukituki, next door to the ConArt studios, and across the road from the King St Artworks, looks like simply an art gallery or a craft shop.

In reality, it is much more – a centre for learning, healing, and art across the whole spectrum of Maori culture, including raranga (basic weaving), kowhaiwhai (line drawing), whakairo (carving), rongoa (health) and te reo regeneration.

It was set up in 2015, with carving the initial focus – “patukituki” means knock or tap, and the name represents the sound made by a carver’s mallet hitting the chisel. It also means “hearbeat”.

Chairwoman of Te Patukituki o Wairarapa incorporated society, Jade Waetford, said the centre was “for the whole community”, with a special focus on supporting Maori artists.

“It is an invitation for Wairarapa to upgrade their cultural understanding and also just to have a go,” she said.

“It’s about enabling Maori to re-engage with their culture, and all of Masterton and Wairarapa to engage with Maori culture.”

She accepts people can feel apprehensive about using te reo and embracing other aspects of the culture but says one of the aims of Te Patukituki is to tackle that worry.

“People are afraid to get it wrong. But they shouldn’t be,” she said.

“We are all learning together, to reclaim a culture and language that was almost lost.”

Masterton Trust Lands Trust provides the building space rent-free, and staff are volunteers, but Te Patukituki must cover its costs, with commissioned carving being the main source of income.

Master carvers Carl Rongonui and Wayne Pitau are working on a waharoa, or gateway, for Masterton Intermediate School.

Masterton District Council doesn’t give financial support but provides staff resources to help with the centre’s governance.

Te Patukituki is in the planning stages of its Te Reo Café, where people learning the language can practise using it in a social setting.

“It is a lot more difficult when you’re outside an environment where te reo is spoken,” Ms Waetford said.

“We want to normalise this language. We’re bridging gaps – we’re gap fillers.”


Chairwoman of Te Patukituki o Wairarapa incorporated society Jade Waetford. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE

Ms Waetford stressed all were welcome to visit the centre and take up the courses in crafts, language and health.

A programme – with days of the week written in te reo – is displayed in the window.

“I think days and numbers are a pretty easy place to start with te reo,” Ms Waetford says.

The centre also offers a gallery and outlet for Maori art.

“It is exciting to be the first representative of something Maori on the main street,” she said.

That’s a theme taken up by Tom Hullena, special projects lead for education and community development for the council.

“We are a multicultural society but where do we see that in the CBD?” he asked at a meeting of the council’s community well-being committee.

“Te Patukituki is a chance for Maori groups to come together and share their arts and it is an opportunity for our community to better understand Maori culture through the arts.

“It’s not just for artists who are working in the arts but to nurture people and heal people through the arts and through their culture.”

Ms Waetford said Te Patukituki was always looking for volunteers to help run the centre.

“We would love to hear from people with governance and management skills, experience in curating art gallery spaces, or co-ordinating projects – as well as doing things like cleaning and welcoming visitors,” she said.

Visit Te Patukituki’s Facebook page for details of upcoming activities.

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