Te Wānanga o Aotearoa kaiako who attended the Toi Kiri Indigenous Arts Festival in Tauranga over the weekend all agree, it was a resounding success.
The annual event, held at Whareroa Reserve in Mt Maunganui, saw indigenous tattoo and other artists from around the world gather together to showcase their skills.
Kim Marsh, Kairuruku, was thrilled by the whanaungatanga experienced by her team.
“It’s been well worth it. People were coming and engaging with the art and the kaiako who were there. The kaiako had the chance to get together. They are seeing old friends, and making new ones,”says Kim.
Around 50 people participated in the native paint workshop run by Toni Herangi, kaiako from Huntly, who is passionate about using all parts of a tree to make her native paints.
Toni prepared native paints beforehand to allow people attending the workshop to see and experience the end of the process and then have a go painting with them.
The print-making facilities were well used, with whānau able to make their own print, using the tools provided, or use an existing one to print onto card.
On Sunday, Tauranga kaiako Jordyn Daniels was painting gourds while overseeing the print-making. She had some of her tauira turn up, and loved the opportunity to connect with her fellow kaiako, and artists from around the world.
“It fills my cup being in a creative space, it’s so inspiring. It’s also eye-opening to see the world of indigenous arts,” she says.
The kaiako appreciate the way Kim has supported their professional development by arranging this opportunity.
In today’s busy world it can be easy to underestimate the value that can be found in spending time with other artists and fellow kaiako, and be given the opportunity to learn each other’s process.
Lila Te Kani, also based in Tauranga, agrees.
“You get so zoned into your own tauira, and forget about others, so this has been cool. I think it’s a great experience for other native artists from around the world to be hosted on a marae too. They can see what it’s like and it makes them feel comfortable.”
As the weekend evolved, kaiako started practising their own mahi. Lila Te Kani and Marewa Severne were painting using Toni’s paints, and Heramaahina Eketone prepared harakeke she harvested nearby.
Two kaiako, Rawiri Horne and Tiffany Makaore, were busy all weekend doing tā moko.
Heramaahina loves that they were in a safe place and able to relax.
“It was a great opportunity for us to showcase ourselves and our excellence,” she says.
It’s important for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to invest in their kaimahi, and help them develop professionally.
In this instance, being part of such a collaborative and friendly environment has proven to be an incredibly positive and enriching experience for these kaiako and artists. They’ll be back next year to continue and build on what they’ve started.