THERE can be no higher honour for those at James Hargest College who have the school’s kakahu draped over their shoulders.
The newly completed feathered Maori cloak was blessed at a special ceremony last week.
James Hargest College (JHC) guidance counsellor Sharon Rodgers said the kakahu would only be put on the shoulders of people who had “great mana”, people who had an association with the school who had achieved something outstanding, such as the dux of the school or those who had represented New Zealand at an international level.
“We certainly want it to be worn. It is not to be hanging in a cupboard.”
The initial idea for creating a kakahu came out of a meeting of Te Komiti Maori, a group of JHC teachers interested in promoting the success of the school’s Maori pupils.
With support from the school’s PTA and Creative Communities, the school-wide project to create the kakahu began.
More than 190 pupils, past pupils, whanau and staff worked together to create the kakahu during a series of workshops held throughout the year under the supervision of weaver Robin Hill, of Dunedin, who had gifted her time to the project.
“I wasn’t surprised by the response. It got a life of its own,” Mrs Rodgers said.
“It’s got huge meaning for me to see it [completed and on display at the school].
“I am looking forward to seeing the dux in the senior assembly wear it for the first time.”
Pupil Mackenzie Shaw (15), who is originally from Australia, voluntarily attended all the school workshops to help make the kakahu.
“I really enjoyed it. I love the Maori culture,” she said.
Mrs Rodgers said much symbolism relevant and important to the school community had been incorporated into the kakahu’s design.
It had been made from jute, a vegetable fibre, and decorated using predominately pheasant feathers.
Mrs Rodgers said pheasant feathers had been used because the pheasant was an introduced species in New Zealand, representing the multicultural nature of the school.
Former associate principal Nadia Rose had gifted back to the school an albatross feather she had been presented with at her farewell last year in recognition of her 42 years of service to the school for the kakahu.
The albatross feather had been positioned in pride of place in a top corner of the cloak.
Principal Andy Wood said the kakahu represented another step towards the school honouring the Treaty of Waitangi.
“It’s another step forward in the school’s journey of understanding what being a treaty partner means,” he said.
“We are trying to give life to the idea that culture counts… we value Te Ao Maori [the Maori world] and we want all students to learn more about the unique cultural heritage of the country they live in.”