ONE OF NEW ZEALAND'S FINEST CHAPELS was consecrated at Napier on November 1. It was the chapel of Hukarere Girls' College, an institution whose outstanding and inspiring influence on Maori home life over the last three generations has become justly famous. Decorated by the finest carving, panelling and scroll-work, the building has little in New Zealand church architecture to equal it. It is fitting that it should have been erected here, to develop and inspire Hukarere's pupils during a very impressionable period in their lives, as these girls will have so great a part to play in the Maori world of tomorrow.
The guiding spirit of the chapel's design was the late Sir Apirana Ngata. He, so it is said, made the first sketch for it on the back of an envelope, after pacing out the distances on the site. Sir Apirana plauned the chapel with a pakeha exterior and a Maori interior. The exterior is simple and sedate, and resembles the average chapel. The inside shows the finest and richest work of which Maori artists and craftsmen are capable.
Dedicated by Bishop Lesser, of Waiapu, to St. Michael and the Angels, the chapel is a grift from ex-pupils of the school. Funds grew over the years, until four years ago enough had accumulated to start the work.
The decoration of the Chapel has been a rare opportunity for Maori craftsmen and for the schoolgirls, who spent many long hours helping Lady Ngata and Mrs R. Paenga with the tukutuku panels. Most of the carving was done in Gisborne, by John Taiapa, with the help of other East Coast men-Derek Mortis, Riki Smith and Bill Paddy. It was then sent to Napier by coastal steamer, and set up in the Chapel. But the kowhaiwhai work, for which Jack Kingi is responsible, was done when the boards were in place. Mr Kingi describes his work as a ‘modern modification’ of traditional designs.
The various tribes to which the girls belong are represented in the designs of the kowhaiwhai and in the tukutuku panels. The kowhaiwhai design on the centre ridge board was taken from the meeting-house at Waiomatatini in honour of Sir Apirana Ngata, and part of the kowhaiwhai in the sanctuary is in memory of Bishop Bennett. A fund has been started to set a stained-glass window in the west wall, as a memorial to these men, who were such good friends to Hukarere.
This beautiful chapel is the work of many hands. The art work has been made possible by the generosity of various Maori groups, and a Government subdidy: most of the money for the furnishings came from the Te Aute Trust Board; and several generations of Hukarere girls have raised the money for the building itself.
Some weeks ago, just before the dedication ceremony, I took an opportunity of visiting the school, to see how it is faring, and to meet the girls.
High-perched Hukarere has a magnificent view of Napier and the blue, surrounding bays. Looking from the front like a very large private
1 The outside of the chapel (front) is austere and does not suggest the richness of the interior. The school building is in the background.
2 Sewing class—Standing: Nellie Karkeek, and sitting, from left to right: Amiria Tearoatua, Whaterau Baker, Ani August, and Nina Lambert.
4 From left to right: Elizabeth Chase, Annie Wallace (upside down), Eleanor Pairama, Hinga Nepia.
5 Girls singing, from left to right: Horowai Ngarimu (Head Prefect), Tilly Mocke, Sue Keelan and Waitai Ferris.
The morning I arrived a comforting smell of fresh baking drifted out of the kitchen windows, and the sound of a sewing-machine came from somewhere over my head.
YOU BEGIN BY SWEEPING PATHS
This homelike atmosphere is part of the Hukarere tradition. Miss Hunter, who has been Headmistress since 1948, told me: ‘The basis of everything we do here is to teach the girls to run their own homes.’
Wherever we went this practical approach was obvious. In the kitchen we interrupted the cooks-for-the-day, Hilda Otene, of Omahu, and Waiwai Ferris, of Ruatoria, as they were serving the vegetables for the mid-day meal. Neither Hilda, who wants to be a drill teacher, nor Waiwai, who wants to work in an office, thought it a waste of time to be learning to cook.
This training for home life is not haphazard. It is carefully organised to fit in with the ordinary school programme. Miss Hunter explained that the girls change jobs every fortnight, that the turns are arranged with scrupulous care, and that the work gets progressively more difficult as the girls become more responsible.
‘The Third Formers begin with sweeping the paths; then they graduate to washing the dishes and laying the tables, and so on to the laundry and the kitchen.’
After an excellent meal in an astonishingly quiet dining-room a large team of girls cleared the tables and washed the dishes with the best good humour. I asked Horowai Ngarimu, who has reached the supervisory status of the Sixth Form, how the girls like these jobs. She laughed, ‘The Third Formers think it's a hard life, but they soon get used to it.’
Many of the aspects of homecraft taught at Hukarere are not domestic chores at all. During the day I saw several forms practising their bandages for a Red Cross examination. I watched the embroidery classes doing very involved work on tapestry stool-covers and fire-screens, and just missed seeing a large and beautiful baby doll getting her morning bath at the hands of the Mothercraft Class.
Dressmaking is very popular. Form Five Lower was particularly busy, with their work in every stage from cutting to fitting. Some of these girls modelled their finished work for us, and others eagerly showed us what the rest of the school had done. Between the Third Form, where they make their own cotton gym-dresses, and the Fifth Form, where they learn to draft their own patterns, the girls make a man-tailored shirt to wear under their winter tunics: a baby's layette; dresses and shirts for their small brothers and sisters; and all kinds of clothes for themselves—from a petticoat to a tweed costume. Perhaps most important of all, they are taught to make an old garment over into something useful and attractive.
THEY MARRY VERY EARLY
I asked Miss Hunter what becomes of the majority of her girls after they leave school.
‘They marry very early, most of them before they are twenty-five, so you can see how important it is for us to concentrate on homecraft.
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But the girls who take School Certificate and those who go on into the Sixth Form to get their University Entrance, generally leave school to become nurses or teachers. They want very much to go back to work among their own people.’
As I talked to the girls themselves I found how widely scattered their homes are. Some of them belong to districts where the old arts are very strong, and the Maori language familiar; others to places where Maori is scarcely spoken at all.
‘One of the things we try to do,’ Miss Hunter said, ‘is to encourage Maori crafts, and to teach them all to be fluent in Maori. It is a set subject for School Certificate, and we share our Maori language teacher with Te Aute College.’
To encourage Maori arts and crafts in a school staffed almost exclusively with pakehas would seem rather difficult to an outside observer. I had met the staff, an English-woman, a Viennese who teaches needlework, a games mistress from Dublin, a number of New Zealanders. Each of them seemed particularly happy in her work at Hukarere, but not one of them had said a word about teaching taniko or tukutuku, or action songs. But when Horowai Ngarimu, the leader of the Maori Club, called her girls together for a lunch-hour practice, I saw for myself that all Miss Hunter needs to do to encourage Maori art is to give this club enough time, and the girls will teach each other. As they moved from one action song to another, I could see that at Hukarere everyone teaches what she knows in the old traditional way. Just before the afternoon work began the Sixth Formers sang the ancient chant Popo! for us, and the rest of the school stood quietly listening and learning.
When they finished the chant I talked to Horowai and the other Sixth Formers. All four