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Image above: Brian Prestige (Principal of Fairfield College at time of Kereti carving the wharenui, & at the time of the opening); Kereti; Warren McGrath (renovator of the carvings; and one of the first graduates of Maunga Kura Toi Whakairo Degree in 2004); Richard Crawford (current Principal Fairfield College); & Pine Campbell (Tumuaki Maori at the College, prior to & at the time of the opening)


A Hamilton secondary school marae – once a labour of love for a then budding Te Wānanga o Aotearoa carver – has been brought back to life by one of his tauira.

The carved façade of Fairfield College’s meeting house, Te Iho Rangi, was in a state of decay with pieces of the brittle wood beginning to crumble through dry rot.

The carved maihi (or bargeboards), supporting amo and central pou all suffered from prolonged exposure and the building, which was once a baptist church in Fairfield before it was overhauled to become the school’s whare in 1995, was in dire need of an overhaul.

Former Te Wānanga o Aotearoa tauira, now master carver, Warren McGrath was tasked with its repair.

He spent nine months stripping away the rot and reinstating the three-dimensional figures to precise standards.

He told the Waikato Times he pared back the existing paintwork to the bare timber to find the portions of wood that needed replacing.

The house’s original carver, Professor Kereti Rautangata of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, could not fault the work of his former tauira, who was presented an award for topping his TwoA carving class by Dame Te Atairangikaahu in 2005.

“I paid him nothing but supreme accoldades because I looked at the whare nui and he had replicated it exactly. Had it changed one inch I wouldn’t have been able to talk about it anymore.

“Some take the licence when they rennovate other peoples work but he didn’t.”

Professor Rautangata spent seven years carving Te Iho Rangi with a team of up to 40 carvers and weavers, who created the tuktuku panels,.

He said the restoration of carved whare throughout the motu was something a number of his former tauira had been involved withwas a new pathway for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

“This is a great example of it, but our tauira have been involved in a number of restorations that have been done in the past on numerous whare around the motu”

“It’s a whole uptapped field and it’s one thing in our degree which we spoke about but couldn’t include when we first got started but it’s definitely a big thing.”

The whare, which was first opened in 1995, was reopened to tauira at Fairfield College for the start of the school year.

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Article By: James Ihaka



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