Te Pou Arahi, a massive macrocarpa sculpture transformed into an artwork by senior students from Sunderland College, Nga Kakano Christian Reo E Kura and master carver Sunnah Thompson of Te Kawerau a Maki, stands proud in Epping Reserve. It is a visual reminder of the creatures and plants that will return if we continue to protect the reserve.
In 2007 students from Sunderland College were invited by Project Twin Streams to adopt an area in Epping Reserve. While restoring the area they discovered a stump covered in graffiti and hollowed out by fire. They were impressed by it’s size and wanted to work with a local artist to carve it into a sculpture.
Project Twin Streams consulted with Te Kawerau a Maki who chose carver Sunnah Thompson to work together with the students. After studying the plants and creatures indigenous to Henderson Creek the students then designed their own depictions of them. Sunnah helped them make scale drawings and consider designs that would work as carvings.
Nga Kakano Christian Reo E Kura were invited to join the project. Some Nga Kakano students also designed creatures of their own to adorn the stump. Both student groups found the experience meaningful. “We have a closer relationship with the river and the environment now,” said Nga Kakono’s Principal Te Rangi Allen. “The children can say they have ownership of the area now. Now they go walking past the tree and they can say they had input into the design. How many can come back with their own child in 20 years and say, ‘look, I did that’?” he says.
The late kaumatua Eru Thompson and other Te Kawerau a Maki elders chose the name Te Pou Arahi, which translates as The Guide Post. “We wanted the name to be an accessible way of reminding us that our ancestors trod this path over a thousand years ago… and it’s also a marker of things to come. We wanted to remind te rangatahi (the youth) of their role as kaitiaki (guardian), that they are the future caregivers for the area,” said Eru.
Primary students at Sunderland have continued working with Project Twin Streams and Nga Kakano also continue their relationship with the project. Those involved hope that Te Pou Arahi will send a message to the public to care for the natural environment.