Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pasifika Fale a new place of learning for West Auckland Primary School

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

Students at Glen Eden Primary school in West Auckland braved the cold to welcome guests for the opening of their new fale recently.

On hand for the occasion was Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni and former Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

“I think this is the second fale that I’ve seen in primary schools; congratulations to the school for prioritising the importance, because it is a house of learning, it’s a fale of learning,” Aupito says.

The west Auckland primary school has waited two years for the fale to be completed. With around half the school being Pasifika, it was only fitting to have something to reflect that.

“It’s an absolute blessing for us at our school. It’s taken us a while to find an architect,” says school principal Donna Soljan.

“But really what I think is, when you come into a school, what tells you that it’s a school in Aotearoa and what tells you that it’s a school in Tāmaki Makaurau, with over 300,000 Pasifika people?”

Cook Islands carver David Maruariki, who has a child who goes to the school, carved the main ‘pou’. David’s partner Michelle says they painted the pou red to symbolise the connection of the fale to the land.

With her help sketching the design on the Pou, David painstakingly carved the design into the wood while in its upright position, because the pou was already cemented into the concrete foundation.

David says it was a work done from the heart and hopes this is something the future generations can learn from.

The roof of the fale is the shape of an upside-down hull, the outside is adorned with black slate, while the inside is decorated with Māori and Pasifika designs.

Situated on one side of the rafters, the artists have embedded white stones to represent the Matariki constellation. The surrounding pou’s that support the roof are tied together with traditional ‘kafa’ or sennit rope from Samoa while Tongan artist Filipe Tohi added the decorative lashings.

The vision and design of the fale was the inspiration of Samoan architect Fa’amatuāinu Pesetā To’oto’ole’aava Lama Tone, who says it was intentional to have all Māori and Pasifika cultures represented in this project.

“A concept which I designed with Mana Whenua in terms of that pou and the Matariki stars and obviously the heke – rafters. So that all formed obviously the brief and the planning of the fale,” Fa’amatuāinu says.

Meanwhile Principal Soljan is happy that the fale is finally open and ready for the school community, especially the children.

“This fale is really a place for everybody to come together. It’s a place for all peoples, but it’s also really significant in that the lashings, the pou, all parts of it, tell a story,” she says.

“It’s a place for us to take children to teach them so many things. It’s about voyaging, it’s about the narratives of the Pacific. It’s a place of learning.”

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