Groundbreaking marae turns 30
The opening of the marae at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education was a proud moment for staff member Bruce Taplin.
The wharenui Tutahi Tonu was only the second meeting house on a tertiary campus when it was completed 30 years ago this month.
The faculty celebrated the milestone with a lowkey hangi and a formal dinner last week.
Mr Taplin was a 23-year-old student at the time and he was a key part of proceedings.
He helped to compose a wero, or challenge, which he and around 40 students performed at the opening.
‘‘It was quite a spiritual and emotional occasion starting with the dawn ceremony which was shrouded in mist and then the many groups that were welcomed on throughout the day.’’
Invited guests included members of local iwi as well as staff from various government departments and educational institutions.
The idea of establishing a marae on the site was proposed by trainee teacher Mahuta Tuhura in 1973 and it was finally completed on November 19, 1983.
The carvings were more 3-D than tra- ditional ones, which made it the first fully carved meeting house in a New Zealand tertiary institution.
It had taken master carver Mark Klaricich two years to complete.
He was only about 18 at the time but he had a gift, Mr Taplin says.
Tutahi Tonu translates as ‘‘we stand united and tall together’’.
The coming together of people and cultures is reflected in its carvings, he says.
There are references to Maui legends and Matariki as well as the iwi and cultures represented at the college.
One post was carved by a Pakeha student, there are also Pacific Island carvings and another post that is a compilation of small carvings made by students who studied there even before it was completed.
It quickly became a place where people congregated, Mr Taplin says.
‘‘Many of the Maori students gravitated towards the marae. It gave us a focus and it was like a haven for us.’’
It remains an important part of campus life with all new staff and students being welcomed onto the marae.
A lot of visitors come through its doors, mainly from Auckland and Northland schools but also from overseas.
‘‘Marae seem to be a natural part of the education scene now.
‘‘But at the time this marae showcased what could be achieved in a tertiary institution, Mr Taplin says.
Innovative design: Faculty of Education staff member Bruce Taplin outside Tutahi Tonu which was the first fully-carved meeting house in a tertiary instution when it opened in 1983.