It is often a delicate path we walk in trying to safeguard and maintain our traditional customs and mātauranga in a digital world.
The journey is worth it though, and for Ōhinehou-based Whakaraupō Carving Centre, a move to online learning is continuing to bear fruit and holds lessons for us all.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Whakaraupō was unable to fulfil demand for its whakairo toi classes and the need for a digital option soon became clear. With the support of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu Wave funding, their first online whakairo course, Whatu Kura Toi, began to take shape.
Course developer and kura manager, Noah Mackie (Ngāti Kura, Ngāpuhi), says the initial 30-page course was enthusiastically received in 2022 and through the subsequent development process, the next 90-page course is due to begin in June 2023.
The 10-week foundation course incorporates pūrākau, karakia, critical theory and mātauranga. Tauira are connected via online wānanga.
Noah, who is the son of Whakaraupō Kaiwhakairo, Damian Mackie (Ngāti Kura), holds a degree in English Literature and Cultural Anthropology from Massey University and currently works as a writer, educator and researcher in Melbourne. He is keen to promote the idea that education is a lifelong journey and is enthusiastic about the potential of digital learning for all ages.
“The digital space can be isolating for some,” he says, “but its biggest advantage is that it is accessible, affordable and flexible.
“We hold weekly Zoom wānanga so tauira can mihi, build confidence and share ideas, and by the end of those, we see our students are much more relaxed and comfortable. We also have a live stream from the Lyttelton carving centre that our tauira can tune into, to see actual carving happening.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of people are disconnected from their cultural backgrounds and that can be a scary and confronting place to be. I want to be a conduit – I’m passionate about education and being able to connect people with their culture in a way that is enjoyable and fun, is enlightening.”
The journey and kōrero of Whakaraupō serves as inspiration for us all. Have a look at the video below to hear more.