Invercargill raranga kaiako Wini Solomon has been acknowledged for her environmental efforts over more than 40 years by being awarded the Kaitiaki Tohu Pai (Guardian Award) at the Southland Community Environment Awards last month.
Whaea Wini, who teaches raranga at both Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Southland Institute of Technology, received the award for her “outstanding commitment” to sharing her culture and heritage, the award citation says.
“She has inspired generations of New Zealanders to make connections with each other and our natural environment. Her teachings help start conversations about the wider world, and the judges were struck by the connection she has with her students.”
Whaea Wini, who is 74 years young, has been teaching raranga at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for ten years and says her environmental work compliments her raranga.
“Harakeke is part of the environment and there is a lot of kai gathering tied to harakeke, through clean water and things like that, and I like to eat the kai, it has no chemicals in it.”
Whaea Wini says raranga continues to attract good numbers of tauira in Southland and they make good use of the local harakeke.
“They’re making wahakura, korowai, they all use harakeke there’s heaps of it here.”
She says the award was not something she had aimed for and the awards night made her nervous.
“I was first up and my knees were shaking but it was a nice night watching everyone else who had been working for the environment be recognised. I understand I’ve done it for a few years but like anyone else who has a passion, I wasn’t looking for anything.”
Whaea Wini has spent decades inspiring others and sharing her knowledge and the award citation notes how she is able to relate to others.
“Wini has an ability to get alongside people from all walks of life and teach and support them in their learning. Those people learning from her gain not only some education, but a cultural experience and understanding every time.”
But Whaea Wini says while she loves teaching raranga, new administrative requirements make things a bit of a struggle.
“The bookwork is what gives me a headache. I’ve always just done it the old way and everybody was happy. If I had a kaiawhina to do the bookwork I’d stay on. I find that it is much harder when you’re my age.”