Creative Kōrero, Nga Toi Maori, Visual Arts

Cultural artworks breathe life into University of Waikato’s new Tauranga Campus

In the short space of a year, the landscape of Tauranga’s CBD has changed dramatically. The University of Waikato’s new Tauranga Campus is gradually revealing itself and, over the coming months, progress will be on the interior fit out.

Behind the scenes, a team of Bay of Plenty artists have been selected to create several major artworks for the new university-led campus, opening in early 2019. The creative works will give the campus identity and breathe life into the new building.

“The artworks will express a cultural narrative which reflects the relationship with mana whenua and more broadly with Tauranga Moana and Bay of Plenty iwi. The artworks also acknowledge the relationships with our education partners in the region and with the many diverse cultures that will make up our campus community,” says University of Waikato Kaumātua in Tauranga, Tamati Tata.

Since 2015, the University’s campus project team have worked with the building’s architects Jasmax, consulting with local iwi, community, tertiary and business partners to gain their contribution to the vision of the new campus.  In collaboration with the iwi of Tauranga Moana, and in particular with Ngāi Tamarāwaho (as mana whenua of the CBD area where the campus building is located), a cultural narrative for the new campus has been developed.

In order to achieve the scope and scale of the artworks, 10 Bay of Plenty artists have been chosen to complete the allocated projects including Jamie Boynton, Shona Tawhiao, Robert Turner, Teresa Nepia, Michael Mason, Melissa Willison, James Tapiata, Maraea Timutimu, Kereama Taepa and Whare Thompson. All the artists reside in the greater Bay of Plenty area and the majority (seven of the ten artists), whakapapa to Tauranga Moana iwi and were chosen due to their expertise and experience in their respective professions as well as the quality of their workmanship.

Carver and artist, Whare Thompson, known for his works at Pukehinahina, Te Ranga Reserve, Greerton Library, Trustpower and Tauranga Police Station to name a few, has been appointed the Lead Coordinating Artist for the overall Tauranga Campus artworks project. Of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua and Te Whakatōhea descent, Whare has been involved in discussion about the campus development since 2016 and says he considers it an honour to be leading this significant creative project.

“Relationships with the people of Ngāi Tamarāwaho and Tauranga Moana have guided my response and approach to this project. Ensuring that the artworks represent and reflect the people in a way that honours them and their stories is of utmost importance. The concepts of excellence, higher learning, inclusive communities and striving forward to achieve ones goals are key influences with the artworks being developed,” he says.

In addition to his role as Lead Coordinating Artist, Whare is also completing three major works, including an impressive 18 metre high poutokomanawa panel located in the building’s central atrium which reflects Tane’s and Tawhaki’s ascent of the 12 realms to receive the three baskets of knowledge. The poutokomanawa will extend the whare wānanga concept through the campus and amplify the purpose and function of the entire building as a house of higher learning.

Nine of the artists will come together for another significant artwork which features in the campus’ Noho Room – a premium teaching and learning space and a space for cultural activities such as wānanga, including overnight stays. “This space will draw on wharenui architecture where five carved and four tukutuku panels will alternate and be utilised to symbolise whakapapa connections and relationships,” says Whare.

The new campus, which the University is leading on behalf of the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership, will be a vibrant and engaging multipurpose space where students, researchers, the community and industry can work together.

“The campus will present as a modern whare wānanga that has a unique cultural narrative and identity. The artworks will serve as a resource for inspiring and engaging students, staff and the wider community around the history and heritage of Tauranga Moana,” says Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alister Jones.

The main campus itself was designed to promote collaboration and social learning, it includes communal study and social spaces, a 24-hour computer lab and a café. It also includes a courtyard and Noho Centre, which incorporates sleeping, catering and teaching facilities which are available for use by University students, staff and the wider community. The campus’ central atrium provides a social hub for staff, students and visitors and includes areas for conferences and community events. Levels one, two and three incorporate teaching and social learning spaces, including open plan and multifunctional spaces as well as a 200-seat tiered lecture theatre. Level three also features a large balcony overlooking the marae atea (courtyard). Dedicated spaces for staff and postgraduate students are available on level four.

The University’s new home was designed to be part of an educational precinct, connecting to other regional tertiary providers, to Tauranga city, the communities of Tauranga Moana, the wider Bay of Plenty and beyond.

Creative Kōrero, Nga Toi Maori, Visual Arts

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