With arthritis in his fingers, Kohatu Hemara had doubts that he would be able to successfully complete the raranga (weaving) programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
After pushing past his doubts and giving the programme a good go, Kohatu not only completed the programme but it helped strengthen the mobility and use of his fingers.
“I didn’t realise raranga would help with my arthritis, that’s why I was all negative at the beginning. I didn’t exercise my fingers much but this gave me the opportunity to work with my fingers more.”
Kohatu is a familiar face around the Hamilton campuses at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, having worked as the Maintenance Support Person for 20 years.
After completing the Toi Maruata, Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Art (Raranga, level 3) programme in 2022 and displaying his mahi toi (artwork) at the end of year toi exhibition, Kohatu hoped it would inspire other tauira to give the art form a try.
“I was blown away to see my work in the exhibition. I didn’t know how to take it because I’ve never seen any of my mahi (work) put up before people. The students will see my piece and will see that the very person who works outside has had their own learning journey.”
“My work is like a wero (challenge) to all of our students and I hope that they’ll take it on,” says Kohatu who is now studying the level 4 programme, Ngā Mahi ā te Whare Pora – Weaving.
Coming to work and keeping busy maintaining the campus grounds is a big part of Kohatu’s life and he takes pride in his mahi.
But he was eager to branch out and create a life outside of his everyday mahi and he found exactly that when he began studying raranga.
“I was always at work and I love it, but I never really socialised outside of my mahi. This gave me the opportunity to meet people. I’ve made some friends that are like whānau to me now.”