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Community in focus

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Chevron Hassett's grandmother, Charmaine McLean-Whaanga, was in the famous Washday at the Pa by Ans Westra as a little girl.

Fifty years on Chevron is now a photographer himself, exploring Māori cultural identity in modern New Zealand. He shows us around the Koraunui Marae in Stokes Valley, where he grew up.

Tukutuku panels with photographs of ancestors inside Koraunui Marae. The Virgin Mary statue was a gift to the marae.

Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett (Ngāti Porou, Rongomaiwāhine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Pākehā) has connections to the Koraunui Marae that go right back to its beginning. His great grandfather and friends built it in the late sixties as an urban marae for youth in the area. Koraunui Marae is a marae for nga iwi and was built with the support of a collective of local iwi, the Stokes Valley community, and Father McHale, who was responsible for Māori pastoral care at the time. 'Father McHale offered land for the marae to be built on, but it's not a Catholic marae. This marae is for everyone,' says Heneriata Gremmell, a co-ordinator at the marae.

Heneriata Gremmell and Ellen Matoe drinking tea after washing the dishes. Both women help with the day-to-day organisation of the marae. Heneriata has four generations of family at the marae.

Charmaine McLean-Whaanga, Chevron's grandmother, is part of the Mana Wahine programe at the marae. She also practices maurakau, Māori massaging and medicine.

Chev's grandparents have also been involved in the marae all their lives. His grandfather was a teacher at the marae for more than a decade and his grandmother, Charmaine, is still heavily involved in the marae's operations, including its Mana Wahine programme which supports local Māori women.

Chev's father was a carver for the marae before he was killed in a motocycle accident. 'He still has a carving room at the marae with the carving and tools left in the same place as before he left,' says Chev.

His bi-cultural background, with a Pakeha mother and Māori father, meant Chevron's family connection to the Koraunui Marae made it an important place to learn about his Māori heritage while growing up. 'I went there once or twice a week throughout my childhood. I'd go there whenever I needed to learn and gather knowledge about my culture.'

Today, the Koraunui Marae is flourishing through the services it offers to the community. It currently offers a free health clinic, playgroups, a mothers' group, marae hire, whanau support, and free classes teaching a range of alternative education courses and classes in literacy skills, employment sills, carving and Te Reo.

Left: Rau Sparrow, a consultant at the marae.

Right: Shane Te Kira with his class: Te Kira, Chase, Jacob, Peiyiin and Alex.

Koraunui Marae wharenui

Photography by Chevron Hassett

Words by Laura Pitcher

First published Capital #42


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