Report – By Alistar Kata
A new early childhood centre will keep South Auckland’s culture alive by erecting pieces of artwork on its Mangere campus.
Six columns, or pou mamanu, will be designed and carved especially for the school, representing some of the main islands in the Pacific, including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand (Aotearoa).
This display will coincide with the opening of the learning centre in November this year.
The new school is in response to the high population of Pacific Island families in the neighbourhood around Mervan St in Mangere, where the centre will be built.
School administrator Lanu Penn says the column designs are unique and represent so much more than just showing different cultures.
“It’ll be very touching when people see the columns because they’ll tell beautiful stories,” Penn says.
“We want our community to know how much we value Pacific languages and beliefs.”
Working alongside Penn is Unitec graduate Petelo Esekielu, of Tagaloa Designs, who organised a group of consultant designers to work on the columns.
Esekielu also arranged a professional master carver from Samoa, Tuailevaoola Pio’ Timu, who will carve the columns using traditional techniques that reflect his 30 years of carving experience.
“This craft isn’t usually seen, it’s such a niche market,” Esekielu says.
“This way we are extending the line of our ancestors’ talents, but re- focusing carving into a New Zealand context.”
Tuailevaoola, whose father was also a master carver, will create the 5m high columns taking around six months to complete.
His work includes the wooden beams at Samoa’s famous Aggie Grey’s Hotel and says his inspiration for the designs comes when he first chips at the wood.
“It hits me like a spark. It’s like a light goes off and I see the design before I even carve it out.”
Esekielu says the art of carving should be introduced into university curricula and “maybe in the future, a master carving school will open up”.
Petelo and Tuailevaoola want to inspire younger generations of artists to use this alternative way of telling stories.
Esekielu has seen first hand how unique the art of carving is and how important it is to pass on stories to the younger generations.
“These columns will act as an anchor for the kids giving them pride about where they come from.”
Penn believes the tall columns will also beautify the school and give it a Pacific theme, providing children with a place they can belong to.
“The pou mamanu are tangible,” she says. “Kids can see and touch and most importantly, identify with the stories that are being told through the columns.”
Penn says above all, these structures will provide “a sense of belonging and give the kids a strong foundation in their cultural identity”.
The new columns will be placed along the walkway leading up to the school as a way to welcome all ethnicities onto the campus.
Alistar Kata is a final year Bachelor of Communication Studies student journalist writing for Pacific Scoop.