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Charmaine McLean-Whaanga was in the famous Washday at the Pa by Ans Westra as a little girl. Fifty-something years on, her grandson Chev is now a photographer himself, exploring Māori cultural identity in modern New Zealand. We asked Chev to show us around the Koraunui Marae in Stokes Valley, where he grew up.
Chevron Hassett’s connection to Koraunui Marae goes 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 Gemmell, a co-ordinator at the marae.
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 the its Mana Wahine programme, which supports local Māori women. Chev’s father was a carver for the marae, working on Ngāti Porou pou for the wharenui before he was killed in a motorcycle 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 Pākehā mother and Māori father, meant that Chev’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’s dream is flourishing through the services it offers to the community, says Dame Tariana Turia. It currently offers a free health clinic, playgroups, a mothers’ group, marae hire, free classes and whanau support. Chev spends a day at the marae with his camera, and shows us the places and people who make it all happen.