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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with wahakura

When Hemi May Kelly was studying towards her Maunga Kura Toi (Raranga) degree at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa she never imagined she’d be creating something for the first child of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

But that’s how things turned out last week, when the Prime Minister was called on to Kai-A-Te-Mata Marae on the outskirts of her hometown of Morrinsville.

Among the gifts presented to Jacinda by Ngāti Hauā were a pounamu taonga shaped like a waka called Te Ara Hou as a symbol of guidance and a wahakura named Tau te Rangimarie, meaning ‘may there be peace’.

Hemi May says it was a huge honour to be asked to create the wahakura for such an important person. She has made plenty of wahakura before, but none have received so much attention.

Her husband is from Kai-A-Te-Mata and his uncle is the marae chairman and Hemi-May says it was a real privilege.

 “It was really awesome.”

She says it usually takes two days to create a wahakura, with the biggest challenge finding the time among her other commitments.

“I’ve made quite a few now, Most times I do the prep in one go and the weaving in one go.”

And - as the Prime Minster can attest – Hemi May is very good at what she does.

Hemi-May graduated with her Maunga Kura Toi degree in 2017 after studying at the Rāhui Pōkeka campus and says studying raranga was about her own personal growth.

“I was doing a degree at Waikato University and the tutor suggested Maunga Kura Toi. The university degree was more about career but Maunga Kura Toi was about developing my skills for my own worth. It was something I wanted to do for myself.”

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