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Former All Black, Kees Meeuws

Former All Black Kees Meeuws has always had a passion for toi, so much so, that in his earlier years he studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, completing a foundation year and first year sculpture.

But due to rugby and professional contracts that came calling, he put his toi studies on hold to pursue his sporting dreams.

Over the past few years, as he’s taken a step back from rugby, Kees has been able to get back in touch with his creative side and started producing toi again.

“I’ve dabbled in art for a while. I’ve had a couple of exhibitions in collaboration with another Māori artist and friend of mine, David Burke. But I’ve always just wanted to learn more about the kaupapa and tikanga behind the art,” says Kees.

Although already a practicing artist, Kees still felt he was missing something when it came to his creative side.

Thankfully, he was able to find that missing piece when he enrolled in Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Toi Maruata programme at the Dunedin campus.

“To be able to do this programme, Toi Maruata through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, was important for me. Being urban Māori, I’m kind of self taught in Māori art and design and I really wanted to understand more of the protocol and that side of things that comes along with doing mahi toi.”

After seeing his daughter complete the programme in Semester A of 2023, Kees knew it was the right time for him to step up and study once again.

“She did it the first semester and I did it the second semester. She was the reason that I did it. I saw her class exhibition and I loved what I saw. Once I saw her exhibition I said, this is what I want to do and I signed up straight away. I made time and made it happen.”

Kees has since participated in his own Te Wānanga o Aotearoa exhibition alongside his fellow tauira, saying it was a moment he was highly proud of and he was over the moon with the result of his mahi toi.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing what Te Wānanga o Aotearoa offers, in all areas. It’s a place where you can be yourself and feel welcomed in the Māori world. It’s completely different to studying at a university or polytechnic, it is much more humbling and grounding and the experience that you get, you will forever hold on to.”

Find out more about Toi Māori (arts) programmes

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Published On: 28 March 2024

Article By: Cassia Ngaruhe

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