Carver Reuben Kirkwood of Gulf Harbour says that the pou he is working on for the administration block’s entrance will be the first project completed in Whangaparaoa that reflects the knowledge of his iwi, Ngai Tai, which has ancient roots and historic links with this region.
The carving will tell stories of this area, and when that knowledge is carried forward by the school’s pupils, it will add to the cultural richness of the area.
Reuben and his wife Andrea have been involved with the school since their son, now 16, was a pupil there. Their eight-year-old is a current pupil.
The pou is a gift to the school and will take weeks to carve, using mainly hand tools. Carving the pou will be fitted in around Reuben’s design consultancy work, which includes Maori input on projects such as the Skypath and motorways, as well as involvement with Auckland Museum.
However, Reuben says now that he’s made a start he expects to lose track of time and spend many hours in his home workshop carving the pou.
The process began with research into the ancient folklore and stories that informed his design.
Reuben then obtained some high quality heart totara, which he chose for its durability and because it is a native tree.
Reuben says he hopes that the carvings will add to local understanding of what has gone before.
“The stories and kaitiakitanga will remain after I have moved on and my kids are no longer at the school,” Reuben says.
Principal Steve Collins says the school is fortunate to have the support of Reuben and his family.
“He is very sought after for his skill and knowledge and we are really fortunate that he, his wife and family are supporting the school in this way,” Steve says.
Orca shaped by ex-pupil
Ex-Whangaparaoa School pupil Tim Smith recently made a significant and valued contribution to his old school, creating the 1.5m-long wooden orca that hangs in pride of place in the office. The orca, which also features in the school’s logo, was shaped from a piece of macrocarpa from a tree felled to make way for the administration block.
Tim remembers climbing that tree when he was at the school, from 1984–92. A builder by trade, Tim enjoys shaping wood and has made quite a few pieces for friends and family, using a chainsaw and grinders fitted with sanding discs. A lot of sanding is involved, and once the orca was stained there was further work with a router and sander.
More than 10 coats of linseed oil were applied to bring out the grain of the wood. The orca, which weighs 55kg, is permanently bolted to the wall providing a focal point and Tim says he’s had a lot of positive feedback. “Not everyone knew that I had that creative streak,” he says.