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When it comes to mother-daughter time, carving at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa makes the cut for Noa and Nikau Campbell.

But even then, mum Noa says it happened on an impulse.

Trained in mau rākau with a degree in Performing Arts, Noa was wanting to immerse herself in wānanga but never thought it would be through picking up the chisels alongside her daughter.

“I went to tautoko Nikau at her pōwhiri and when I was sitting there, i tino rongo tōku wairua o te kaupapa, te karanga o Tāne Māhuta. Tāne called me and literally I knew it was meant to be and I signed up on the spot.”

Nikau says initially she enrolled into the Level 3 Certificate in Art (Māori) Kāwai Raupapa programme in whakairo to learn about the designs inside the whare tupuna.

At first, she was surprised by her mum’s decision to join her class but appreciated having a reo speaker to converse with.

“I know how staunch mum is and I was nervous before starting but it was cool learning about tikanga with a teacher who could articulate and explain the concepts really well. That’s something I eventually want to be good at.

Noa says everyone had something to offer and their tutor Kawiti Wiremu was not only a patient kaiako but a great facilitator of robust kōrero.

“Ahurutanga, was a kupu hou for me and it’s about the safety of the space. It was really welcoming and I could see the mana of that space, that mahi whakairo, ngā mahi a Tāne. I was so uplifted by how it was uplifting for them and I wanted to be a part of it too.

During the 18-weeks the Taitokerau pair discovered influences behind different patterns while also creating some Taonga Puoro and Kowhaiwhai panels.

And although there is no follow-on Level 4 programme available, Nikau earned merits for her exceptional mahi that qualified her for entry into the Level 5 Toi Paematua diploma in Māori Art.

She decided to do the diploma not necessarily to become a carver, but to spend time with kaiako Korotangi Kapa-Kingi and challenge her Māori and English writing.

Meanwhile, Noa has discovered a love for developing her ability to do kōwhaiwhai but says the biggest thing she got out of the whakairo programme, was a deep respect for carvers.

“I think it would take a lot for me to get better at carving or any mahi that goes into building our whare tupuna,” Noa laughs.

“It’s a real gift to commit a good chunk of your life – we’re talking anything from seven years to a decade – so that we have a whare tupuna that’s carved with tukutuku, kōwhaiwhai and all those elements. It’s just awesome.”

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