Friday, April 3, 2009
Inner City Marae
It’s easy to miss Rehua Marae in central Christchurch, tucked away as it is, between grand old homes and modern townhouse complexes in comfortable St Albans. I came upon it unexpectedly when I was out biking a few days ago, so I stopped for a quick look around and a photo of two. Rehua began life on the other side of town as a hostel in the 1950s, accommodating young Maori apprentices who came to Christchurch under the Maori Apprentices Trade Training Scheme at Christchurch Polytechnic. The hostel moved to Rehua’s current site in 1952 and by 1955 the Methodist Church and Ngai Tahu elders had begun planning for a wharenui there. The construction and carving of Te Whatu Manawa Maoritanga o Rehua began in 1957 and at the time it was the first carved wharenui to be built in the South Island for over one hundred years. It was opened in 1960 as a wharenui representative of all the tribes of New Zealand, with interior carvings and tukutuku panelling completed by different Ngai Tahu runanga – the 1200 square feet of tukutuku panels for instance, was made (from fibre from Arahura in Westland), by the women of Rapaki, Taumutu, Wairewa and Otautahi. Today the wharenui is nestled into a leafy corner of the greater Rehua complex beside a pretty flax-bordered stream. It plays host for important gatherings, hui, tangihanga, parties of school children, political meetings and assorted tourism and church functions.