Celebratory Tukutuku Panel Unveiled

By Suzanne McKenzie | Posted: Wednesday December 11, 2019

A special Tukutuku panel has been created by Presbyterian Support Southland (PSS) staff to mark the organisation’s 100th year milestone.

The taonga (treasured possession) was unveiled by staff member Tania Kereama Sutton and blessed by Awarua Rūnanga representative, Dean Whaanga, at a recent ceremony held at PSS’s Invercargill office in July.

PSS Family Works Director Judith McInerney said around 50 staff from both Central Office and the Family Works service teams, along with board members and Chief Executive John Prendergast, gathered for the celebratory event which included the unveiling and karakia, waiata, speeches, shared kai and a movie.

Inspiration for the project had followed visits to the Murihiki Marae where Family Works staff had learnt about the Maori art form in its traditional setting. Working in small groups, staff had come up with their own design elements, that were later skilfully merged into a cohesive whole.

“Staff were absolutely delighted and proud of their finished Tukutuku panel,” said Judith.

“Having come up with the idea and design, staff then learnt how to weave and spent countless hours working together in partnership under the excellent guidance and direction of Tania Sutton and PSS Cultural Advisor, Louise Fowler.”

Judith said many staff had taken part in the 3-year project, but two staff members in particular, Kimberly Smith and Julie Tippet, had “really stepped up” and taken on leadership roles. She considered it a resounding success in terms of a team-building exercise and staff had learned a great deal about, and embraced, Te Ao Māori and the reciprocal process of tukutuku weaving.

“It created such a lovely feeling,” said Judith.

“Staff bonded as they got to know each other better and were buoyed by the meaning behind their creation and the common goal of getting it finished ahead of the centenary celebrations.”

Made from both traditional Māori and contemporary materials, the Tukutuku design, colours and patterns all have significance to the organisation’s history of care and service in Southland.

“… Every single detail, every stitch, has meaning and tells the story of our identity, of our journey,” said Tania who led the many hands involved with the weaving."

“In the top section, for example, the largest white ‘star’ is a tribute to the spiritual love and inspired actions of our founding father, the Very Rev Dr Andrew Cameron.”

“And we’ve incorporated the kaokao pattern in the middle section. This represents the shelter, protection and values that is offered to all under the PSS roof”. It is symbolic of the arms and hands of our staff, volunteers and foster parents and how they embrace, hold and support those involved with us in their journey.”

Set to take pride of place in the Central Office reception area, Chief Executive John Prendergast said the taonga was the result of a tremendous amount of commitment, collaboration and kinship.

“… Not only does it cleverly and creatively capture Presbyterian Support Southland’s story over the years, it also serves as an enduring reminder of our bi-cultural heritage and our continuing commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi and developing the cultural competencies we need to better serve the culturally-diverse communities of Southland.”