Shar­ing fam­i­lies’ waka sto­ries

Whanganui Midweek - - NEWS - By PAUL BROOKS

At Whanganui Learn­ing Cen­tre there is a project tak­ing shape as part of Whanganui’s events dur­ing the Fes­ti­val of Learn­ing next month. It in­volves waka, or rep­re­sen­ta­tions of waka and their sig­nif­i­cance to fam­i­lies and their her­itage.

“We were look­ing at an ac­tiv­ity that would get peo­ple in the com­mu­nity talk­ing,” says Jen McDon­ald, Whanganui Learn­ing Cen­tre op­er­a­tional co­or­di­na­tor.

At first it in­volved one of the Learn­ing Cen­tre’s part­ners, Talk­ing Mat­ters, which pro­motes the power of talk­ing with ba­bies and tod­dlers. An­other part­ner is the McKen­zie Trust, con­nect­ing ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­nity.

“It started with Talk­ing Mat­ters but has shifted and is now about wider con­nec­tions.

“For the fes­ti­val we have a group call­ing them­selves the Change Mak­ers. They look at all sorts of things within their own wha¯ nau and com­mu­nity and come up with ideas how to change things and make them bet­ter. So when we’re look­ing at con­nect­ing ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­nity, it’s wha¯ nau cen­tric but closely re­lated to ed­u­ca­tion.”

The Change Mak­ers are par­ents and grand­par­ents who learn through the Learn­ing Cen­tre.

“Ev­ery­body has a story to tell, so we’re look­ing at the mi­gra­tion of peo­ple and telling that story.”

The waka rep­re­sent the jour­neys peo­ple and fam­i­lies have taken to ar­rive in New Zealand or Whanganui, so while some do look like tra­di­tional waka, or ca­noes, oth­ers are more like buses, large ships or aero­planes.

“For those who know their an­ces­tral jour­ney, they might be com­ing by bird or whale or the orig­i­nal waka their fam­ily ar­rived on. It’s about putting the spot­light on oral lan­guage and this is a good way to get wha¯ nau talk­ing.”

Schools and the wider com­mu­nity have been in­vited to par­tic­i­pate.

“We’re col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Whanganui Re­gional Mu­seum and it will cul­mi­nate in an in­stal­la­tion.”

Waka will be dis­played for a week at the mu­seum’s tem­po­rary premises in Ridg­way St.

“We will have ma­te­ri­als avail­able so, dur­ing that week, any­body can come in with their fam­ily group and make their waka and add it into the dis­play,” says Margie Beau­trais of the mu­seum.

She says waka need to be fin­ished by Au­gust 27.

“It’s about con­nect­ing peo­ple, not only with ed­u­ca­tion, but with each other. This is a beau­ti­ful way to do that. It’s giv­ing peo­ple a voice to ex­press who they are,” says Jen. “As a com­mu­nity we’re shar­ing each other’s sto­ries.”

“It has taken on a mauri of its own be­cause peo­ple have re­sponded so pos­i­tively to it,” says Gail Imhoff, who has been con­tracted to as­sist the Learn­ing Cen­tre with the project.

The li­brary is also sup­port­ing the project so if peo­ple want to ex­plore their genealogy there are re­sources avail­able.

Change Maker fam­i­lies were rep­re­sented by Bree and her chil­dren Lu­cas and Zion, and Eme­line and her daugh­ters Mareca, Ulamila and Obada­iah.

“We are a group of peo­ple not happy with the sta­tus quo, and we see a lot of bar­ri­ers that stop peo­ple reach­ing their full po­ten­tial, a lot of gaps that peo­ple fall through, so we want to fill the gaps and break down the bar­ri­ers,” says Bree. “En­vi­ron­men­tally, ed­u­ca­tion­ally, fi­nan­cially, cul­tur­ally . . . ev­ery way. Places try to have a one size fits all sys­tem, but it doesn’t work.”

“The group of­fers a space to have a voice, share what they’re go­ing through and of­fer so­lu­tions,” says Jen.

Lu­cas is work­ing on a house bus as his “waka”, com­plete with con­certina door.

“He did a lot of grow­ing up on a house bus,” says Bree.

The Change Maker group is run­ning some of their own ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the Fes­ti­val of Learn­ing. This is just part of the Fes­ti­val of Learn­ing and if any­one has ideas on how they could con­trib­ute to the week-long event, con­tact Whanganui Learn­ing Cen­tre on 348 4950.


With a se­lec­tion of waka are (seated from left) Lu­cas, Bree, Eme­line, Mareca and Ulamila. Stand­ing are Gail Imhoff, Jen McDon­ald and Margie Beau­trais.

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