When Te Wānanga o Aotearoa kaiako Regan Balzer was younger, she was part of a rangatahi group involved in activities at Te Kopua Marae in Whaingaroa, attending events like the Te Ao Mārama festival and the Proud To Be Māori hui.
Regan’s connection to this whenua is what inspired her to create and lead the mural project at this Marae DIY.
The four-day transformation was part of the popular Marae DIY television programme, which now has Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is its major sponsor.
The new series screens on Māori TV and TV3 this year and the first episode, which screened on Saturday, featured Te Kopua Marae, which is known as the Kokiri Centre and also Te Whenua Motuhake o Whaingaroa.
Te Kopua is not a marae in the traditional sense but occupies the land that was returned to Tainui Awhiro through protest action led by the late Tuaiwa (Eva) Rickard.
Regan says the opportunity to help out with the makeover was a chance not to be missed.
“I had fond memories of Te Kopua Marae, and the place is significant because of what Eva was able to accomplish with her people. So when the call went out, I was keen to help. It was awesome. It was a crazy four days, but I like a challenge and big projects like that,” she says.
Regan – Te Arawa, Ngāti Ranginui, Maniapoto – is a kaiako for Te Maunga Kura Toi – The Bachelor of Maori Art – Rauangi (Contemporary Visual Arts) in Rotorua.
“I designed the painting and worked with a team to create the mural on the fence and the entranceway to the property. The artwork is based on the land, and the movement of a people who stood strong as one against injustice and won.” she says.
“We used really bright colours because there’s a kohanga next door (and Eva liked bright colours).”
She says it was good to have so many others helping out where they could on the project, with people coming and going as time allowed.
Each person came with different painting abilities, she worked it so that everyone could help somehow.
The whānau from the Kōhanga Reo worked extra hard too on the mural and beautifying their space. The mural, showing the history of the whenua in a visual form, has since become a talking point with the kohanga children. The kohanga reo at Te Kopua Marae works hard to try to keep Te Reo Maori alive for the Raglan community. Having seen the benefits for herself and her own children, of learning how to speak in Te Reo Maori, Regan hopes that the re-vamped entranceway of the kohanga reo encourages more local whanau to inquire further about the option for their children to be immersed in Te Reo Maori at the kohanga.
Regan sums it up by saying; “There are so many different ways art can be used, it doesn’t need to just hang in galleries, the power of art can help us remember and reflect on, the past the present and the future.”
Regan teaches the degree in Art at the Te Wananga o Aotearoa campus in Rotorua. A certificate, diploma and degree programme in Visual Arts is also offered locally at the Huntly TWoA campus.
For more information, contact Te Wānanga o Aoteroa 0800 355 553.