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‘Awesome’ artwork at Whangara School a joint effort

Whangara School has been transformed through art as part of a joint project with students of EIT Tairāwhiti's Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Art & Design.

The best part of the project for the 99 pupils at the school was interacting with, helping and learning from the Toihoukura students, deputy principal Jay Love said.

“The art is fantastic, awesome, but the most exciting part was having the students work with our tamariki and pass on those skills, including patience and perseverance.”

The school has a special relationship with Toihoukura. The students have previously had the opportunity to watch artists at work but this is the first time they have worked together on an art project.

The artwork is on the exterior of a new classroom block and extends to the roofline of nearby buildings to blend everything together.

“It is really awesome and connects all the classrooms. With the main pou (pillar) of our tipuna now on our whare, it is another learning opportunity,” Ms Love said.

Toihoukura tutor Erena Koopu is proud of the final result and of the first-year art students and how well they have worked with the children.

“They had to work with a range of ages and the kids were amazing — beautiful to work with. I am so proud of our students and how they related to them all.”

The building was originally a dark grey.

“The school wanted to lift the aesthetics, making it friendly for the kids.

“This project has been a long time coming because of Covid-19 interruptions. We were lucky we could get a week in at the school recently and now it is finished.”

Initially, there were a couple of meetings with the school to talk about what they wanted.

“Then we got started. The kowhaiwhai trim is based on the fact the whole school is driven by the arrival of Paikea.”

A feature is the main pou, which depicts stories from the whakapapa of tipuna from the area.

Students workshopped with the children, then collectively designed the art works using vibrant colours to brighten up the building.

Design and pre-cutting work was done at Toihoukura, then taken out to the school.

Brightening up Whangara School: Students put the finishing touches to artwork at Whangara School under the eye of Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Art & Design tutor Erena Koopu. The students (from left) are Mathew Paranihi-Hinaki, Ben Love and Bailey-Jane Maaka. The project was a collaboration between Toihoukura first-year students and Whangara School students. Picture by Paul Rickard