Oriwa Morgan-Ward is in her happy place. And Te Wānanga o Aotearoa helped her find it.
“I have always desired to be where I am today,” she says. Where she is today, is in her typically cluttered artistic workspace at Te Awamutu Museum, where she is currently Artist in Residence. Oriwa has just finished a busy schedule of school holiday workshops and art programmes and is working on a piece for the forthcoming Toi Wahine exhibition in Hamilton. That mix of art and education are two key planks of her long-term plan and two areas Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has helped Oriwa build her skills.
I want to be my own business and I want to be a Māori presence as an artist in Putaruru. So I’m stacking my skillset.
And she is well on the way to achieving those objectives. Oriwa finished the Maunga Kura Toi – Rauangi arts degree at Toimairangi in Hastings in 2016 and last year completed a Diploma in Adult Education. She says art was always going to be her thing and after visiting Toimairangi, enrolled on the three-year degree programme. After successfully graduating, she took up the Diploma in Adult Education to learn how to deliver more effective workshops – “from a Māori perspective” – for both children and adults.
“It was amazing, awesome. It helped with teaching me how to learn, how to teach adults, how to make my workshops engaging.” It’s been a busy few years for Oriwa since she returned to Aotearoa in 2013 after many years living overseas. “The last five years have been a 46 year download,” she says. “I was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and lived in the US, but I always remained connected, I always kept in touch.” Her trip home in 2013 was initially to catch up with her family. “I was only visiting for a whānau reunion. Then I thought I’d give New Zealand a year.” She signed up for a year long te reo Māori course, then a friend suggested the 18-week Rongoā Māori programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, and from there it was on to her arts degree.
“I never looked back. I was ready for a change in a learning institute and found it here,” she says. “It’s all about tikanga, about our people and all the philosophies like ahuatanga, kaitiakitanga, I use those in my daily life. It’s the Māori perspective, and we need to keep that. That’s why people come to the wānanga.” While the tikanga attracted Oriwa to Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, it’s the kaiako which keep her coming back for more.
“They are the reason why you turn up for each class, because of their passion. They care about us and you don’t get that manaakitanga anywhere else. They have so much aroha for our people, our culture and our way of doing things. It’s important for other people to feel that. People don’t realise how important Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is to us.”