Claire Aldhamland never could have predicted where she has ended up since studying at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. She’s discovered a passion for raranga and created meaningful connections within her community.
She returned 2 years later after researching who and where she could find the support and expertise needed to redesign her school’s kapa haka uniform.
Claire realised that her art knowledge and skills were only one part to the design process but it was also important that she did it with te ao Māori in mind and learn traditional methods of Māori art and design.
“I looked into who the experts were, and thats when I found Sue Tipene, (raranga kaiako in Ōtautahi). I started in Kāwai Raupapa Level 4 with a lot of support and guidance from Sue, and then moved into Toi Paematua Level 5 this year.”
Claire made a prototype maro for the school kapa haka group and encouraged other teachers and parents to join in to help make enough for the group.
For those that do help create the maro, Claire is always quick to remind them that she is only the introduction, and if they want to learn more and deepen their knowledge, then Sue is the one to go and see.
Since delving into the world of te ao Māori, she has been able to learn and grow as a teacher, allowing her to look at things from a different perspective, and see where she can add value for her tauira Māori.
“I can’t be everything, and I can’t do everything, but I can do a little something to make things better for Māori kids.”
Through this project, one student in particular has been transformed by being supported to learn raranga.
Claire proudly says, “he was wanting to step into te ao Māori but lacked confidence. He really dove deep into his weaving and when I found out he’d started using his Māori name, I knew he’d found his place.”
Claire encouraged him to submit a piece in the Ringa Toi secondary school student exhibition, and it is currently on display at Te Papa.
This has been a full circle moment for Claire, taking her learnings and passing them on, and providing an opportunity not previously available at their kura.
Word has got around about Claire’s skills and knowledge, and she has been approached by local primary schools wanting support to make their kapa haka uniforms.
"How can I justify keeping that knowledge to myself? It’s not mine to keep at home, I want to give back and put it out there for others to see and learn,” says Claire.
Claire has committed to continuing to learn and bringing that knowledge back to her school community.
After being encouraged to apply, Claire won a study award grant from Teaching NZ, and in 2024 she will travel to Rotorua to attend monthly noho for Maunga Kura Toi – Bachelor of Māori Art.
“I just love the way Te Wānanga o Aotearoa do things. The depth of education I can get, I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”