The stars and planets were aligned for Kaiarataki Michael Steedman as he addressed those assembled outside Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui | General Library, City Campus, at 6am on the crisp, still morning of Monday 11 April 2022. A contingent of University staff, Te Tumu Herenga staff, including Te Pou Rāhui, contractors and other guests had gathered for the dawn blessing of the new Student Hubs.
Michael, pointing to the planets in the moonlit sky before welcoming people up the steps to the Ground Level and the new City Campus hub, captured the mood and sense of occasion.
Meanwhile, staff and guests had also gathered in person at Epsom, Grafton, Tai Tonga and Tai Tokerau Campus Student Hubs for a simultaneous multi-site blessing — a first for the University. A large number of staff also attended remotely by Zoom. A special mention goes out to Te Tumu Herenga team members, Hester Mountifield, Chris Moselen and Abigail McClutchie from the Lead Team, and Dennis Matene, who supported the event at these locations, and to the staff who ensured all the technology worked on the day.
Kaiarataki Michael Steedman and Manuhiri Huatahi, Kaiarahi, Te Tumu Herenga, created a strong sense of collective experience within the ceremony. “Our digital Student Hubs blessing ceremony was a privilege to be a part of. I have never felt so emotionally connected remotely to a typically in-person experience,” said Sarah Penwarden, Digital Engagement and Communications Adviser.
The tohu — woven kete — were unveiled simultaneously at each site. These had been hand-made by skilled weaver Pounamu Higgs and chosen to reflect the identity of the new spaces and their inter-connectedness. Pounamu expressed the aroha in her heart as she crafted the works, in the presence of her now late-grandmother, whose knowledge had been passed onto the artist. The kete represent the knowledge of our tīpuna held in ngā whetu | stars and the karu o te whenua | eyes of the land.
At the City Campus, wai collected from Waiariki, a natural spring near the Law School, was sprinkled while Michael chanted karakia as attendees walked through the new hub.
The purpose of the blessing is to clear the space so that it can be used by everyone. Since the return to campus earlier this month, the new Student Hubs have been a hive of activity, with students enjoying the newly designed facilities and services in droves.
Below is a selection of images from the event.
Jo Hammer, on behalf of the Student Hubs Project Team