The first wānanga for Ruku Pō

By March 28, 2017News

Ruku Pō is a leadership initiative that dives (ruku) into the potential of ‘subjective’ engagement, as an effective response to the chaotic, complex and as yet unknown (pō) ‘objective’ challenges of our time.

The Ruku Pō programme, divided into six wānanga, is based at Manutuke Marae and draws on the specific indigenous frames of the tangata whenua, Rongowhakaata, to explore marae approaches of ‘meeting’ including; formal orientation, reading the core of context of place, and aligning action while maintaining the deeply indigenous perspective of ‘wholeness’. The key is enabling difference to be met and revealing the potential of group. Participants are guided to lead and translate these approaches through testing in their own work contexts.

Ruku Pō and kindred Wellington-based programme Ruku Ao meet while observing a practical translation of these frames into the arts-based educational model used by Toi Whakaari.

2017 marks the second iteration of this programme facilitated by Teina and Ngapaki Moetara.



The first wānanga occurred at Manutuke Marae from 3–5 March with a group of 15 participants, half of which come from the local iwi area. Three Toi Whakaari staff are participating this year.

Ways of Meeting

A kaupapa for this wānanga was “The Face of the Challenge – New Zealand and her ways of meeting” and the invitation was to consider how we meet drawing on Rongowhakaata tikanga frames and the model inherent in the metaphorical and physical spaces of the marae atea and entering the wharenui. We encountered practically the concepts of tū and rongo through the group activity of Charades!

We met each other in pepeha and by leading the group into our practice through considering the questions, What is our work in the world? How my work connects to my identity? and What stops this connection from happening? In effect what is/are the source(s) that sustain me and my work? Strengths and vulnerabilities of authentic self were revealed and layers of relationship and connections are starting to build a working culture where relating through sharing and hunting (rapua) to make sense of the sharing is the work of the group, where risking challenge with safety means bringing my best to enable your best – growing our capacity together.

Coming Back to Source and the Foundations of Tikanga

Coming Back to Source was practically experienced in a field trip to the ‘wellspring’ of Te Arai, the awa that passes through Manutuke. From the headwaters of this stream as it emerges from the largest remnant of native bush in the region, Gisborne City draws its municipal water supply. Ironically Manutuke has only just had access to municipal water in the last few years. But by the time the awa reaches Manutuke it is so nutrient polluted that it is un-swimmable and barely sustains viable fish populations.

The murky river downstream (photo Simone Gabriel)


Questions as I reflect on the wānanga

What are the strong foundations needed for tikanga to operate effectively? What is the relation between foundation (tūāpapa) and source?

How do I identify the most effective, most authentic source? Is it serving me well? What skills strengthen source?

Brian prepares breakfast (photo Simone Gabriel)

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