Honour for a 'weaver of people'

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TEACHER: Pareaute Nathan QSM, one of New Zealand's foremost exponents and teachers of weaving. PICTURE/FILE
TEACHER: Pareaute Nathan QSM, one of New Zealand's foremost exponents and teachers of weaving. PICTURE/FILE

Pareaute (Polly) Nathan has received the Queen's Service Medal for services to Maori and education in the Far North over half a century.

As the itinerant teacher of Maori she visited and supported schools in Te Tai Tokerau, and was instrumental in establishing the annual Far North Schools Multi-cultural Festival in the 1980s. She was Head of Maori at Kaitaia College from 1985 until her retirement in 2003, and was central to hosting many regional kapa haka, speech competitions and school visits, along with the national Manu Korero speech competitions in 2005.

She was a pivotal member of Te Reo o Te Tai Tokerau, the secondary schools te reo Maori teachers' group.

Mrs Nathan (Tainui, Te Rarawa) and her late husband George (Buddy) were driving forces behind the continued running and maintenance of Ahipara's Roma Marae, introducing numerous initiatives to the marae from government departments, school groups and local organisations to ensure it was utilised.

She established Te Whare Whiri Toi there in 2009 to maintain the art of traditional weaving, and project led the planning, fundraising and organisation of last year's national weavers' hui at Ahipara last year.

She has also been involved with several local sports clubs, and was responsible for setting up a junior softball club in the early 1980s, but is most widely recognised as one of New Zealand's foremost exponents and teachers of weaving (for which she received Creative New Zealand's 2015 Te Waka Toi Tohunga Raranga (King Ihaka) Award late last year), when she quoted the proverb 'Whiria te tangata ka puta he oranga, whiria nga mahi toi ka puta he tino rangatiratanga:' By weaving people promote well-being, by weaving the arts promote excellence, as representing her past, present and future.

"I have always enjoyed working with people, nurturing tamariki/mokopuna and thriving on the challenge of improving our people, our way," she said.

She had spent more than 40 years of her life as a teacher at Ahipara School and Kaitaia College, and working with other schools to introduce Maori practices in the classroom at a time there was fear that they might be lost.

One of Mrs Nathan's first experiences of weaving was in the 1960s, making a hipori (whariki) for her whare hui, Te Ohaki, which led her to attend night classes with 'Aunty' Florrie Berghan. Over the following decades weaving became a family and community affair.

After 'retirement' in 2003 she returned to her love of weaving again, and, with others, she began hosting monthly weaving workshops at the marae, leading to establishment of the gallery Te Whare Whiri Toi.

- Northland Age

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