Te Wānanga o Aotearoa tauira Marie Clarke has spent the last year weaving a korowai hihimā or cloak as a tribute to her late koro Private Natanahira Wiwarena, a 28th Māori Battalion veteran.
“He was 28-years-old when he died his family were waiting at home for him to return safely. He had no wife or descendants so I wanted to ensure that his story wasn’t forgotten because he fought for all of us,” says Marie, who will complete studying for a Bachelor of Māori Art in raranga (weaving) next month.
The Rotorua local works fulltime so didn’t qualify for a student allowance to help finance her studies but that wasn’t going to stop her from completing the degree at the wānanga (TWoA).
“I needed to look at other resources and avenues to support me in my journey and make sure that not only can I start the journey but I can finish it.”
So Marie applied for and received TWoA’s Dr Diggeress Te Kanawa Memorial Scholarship for two years running and has also received a number of other grants through her iwi, as well as the Timaru Māori Trust Scholarship from The Māori Education Trust.
“My job pays for the roof over my head and the grants and scholarships I have received allowed me to put food on the table.”
Growing up with very little exposure to te ao Māori, raranga has given Marie the opportunity to discover more about her culture and Māori heritage.
“Raranga has helped to bring a better version of myself. If you really want to get to know yourself inside, TWoA is definitely the place to go,” says Marie who discovered a passion for te ao Māori and creativity in primary school through kiwi icon, Beatrice Yates.
Not only does Marie give credit to the support from her tutors at TWoA’s Waiwhero Campus, but she also drew support from her hapu, Ngāti Kea Ngāti Tūara, Ngāti Rangitihi, Tūhourangi-Ngāti Wahiao and Ngāti Hhineuru.
“I would have never made it through my degree if I didn’t have the support of my hapu and iwi. It was the simple things, whether it was $20 or just a phone call checking in.”
Once she’s completed her bachelor's degree, Marie plans to continue studying with TWoA and do a Masters in Applied Indigenous Knowledge while, also encouraging others to take up toi (art).
“I’m glad I chose TWoA and I’m really proud to be a part of the whānau. I would recommend Maunga Kura Toi – Bachelor of Māori Art to anyone.”