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Age-old art of whakairo helps youth to get back on track2 min read

Aug 3, 2022 2 min

Age-old art of whakairo helps youth to get back on track2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Local kaiārahi (mentor), Calvin Devine, has been mentoring youth by reconnecting them to their culture using the age-old art of whakairo (Māori traditional carving). Through a programme called Mahinga Rakau, he has been collaborating with Year 7 and 8 students at Te Papapa School, to create their very own taonga (treasure) using wood and carving tools.


Calvin runs an after-school programme at the nearby Oranga Community Centre and holds school holidays classes there, where children and family members can learn about different aspects of Ao Māori (the Māori world). His latest project was mentoring young learner, Hohepa, who thrived in the hands-on approach to learning through tikanga (Māori values).  Hohepa carved his own taonga, a wooden plaque, which he gifted to the school as part of his legacy. The plaque was presented as a trophy to the winner of the very first handball tournament in Aotearoa, which he helped to organise.


“This taonga is what I use to encourage our taitamariki (youth) to get back on track. They get to carve their feelings or their pūrākau (story) into their wood. The tikanga system used is designed to provide a strong platform, and the experience allows them to find themselves through self-discovery methods,” says Matua Calvin.

Calvin has a special connection to Te Papapa School – his daughter, Te Ariki Devine, is head girl and has been a student in the Māori bi-lingual unit for four years. He says he values the importance of education and has become a Te Papapa school board trustee to better support her learning journey. As a respected Matua of the school, Calvin has created a mentoring programme, Te Huarahi (The Pathway), which helps empower troubled students to navigate the education system; re-integrating them back into regular classroom environments by reconnecting them to their culture and heritage. There have been positive outcomes for taitamariki under Calvin’s guidance, with improved knowledge and skills of the learners under his wing.

Calvin has always enjoyed mahi whakairo (traditional carving work), and uses it to find his calmness and connect with his wairua (spirit). “No matter where they go, our taitamariki can stand strong on the turangawaewae (sense of identity) in Aotearoa, and be ko au, ko whānau, ko hapū, ko Iwi katoa, (Me, my family, my relatives, my people (Ngapuhi)).