Recently I was invited along to an unveiling of the new waharoa (gateway) to Masterton Intermediate School, and I decided to take my camera along, just in case. I pre-loaded it with Tri-X400 black and white film and decided I would only start shooting if it felt appropriate at the time. I made my way in and found a seat, but as soon as the covers started to come off I had to get up start shooting. Karakia (prayers) were chanted/spoken over the waharoa while the covers were removed, verbal expression of the community’s intention for this waharoa. This was a moving moment that made my hair stand on end - not only because the carving and karakia were beautiful but also because it was awesome to see a symbol of Maori culture positioned proudly in front of the school. We heard from one of the master carvers, Carl Rongonui, about what the various parts of the carving represented, followed by a haka from the school and a symbolic ‘first walk’ through the waharoa (and of course, a mean breakfast).
I’m not able to do the meaning of this justice, but I can say that the two figures on the vertical pillars represent our two local iwi (tribes), also featured are kaitiaki (guardians), and students reading and painting. The waharoa acts not just as a beautiful entry point to the school but also as a representation of the stewardship of the children and learning that takes place on the school grounds.
Our Maori culture is something all Kiwis should be proud of. To see the school putting it literally front and centre was really special to witness, especially after having recently had my eyes opened to some of the extent of our country’s tainted history (see Huia Come Home).
See my photos from that beautiful morning below, and if you get down a bit further you’ll find some photos I shot at the workshop where this was carved, as well as some colour photos of the waharoa itself.
B&W photos shot on Minolta XE // 50mm f/1.4 MC lens // Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800
dev+scan by The Black and White Box
Centre for Maori culture in the Wairarapa, and workshop of master carvers Wayne Pitau & Carl Rongonui.
Ma Tatou Ka Ora Ai Tatou
Our Togetherness Keeps Us Well
Shot on Hasselblad 500C/M // Kodak Portra 400