Embracing the Coast’s dynamic social histories

Kararaina Te Ira shifted from Wellington to the West Coast where she has taken on the role of Museum Director in Hokitika.

Kararaina is a conservator for objects and textiles. Through this she has travelled the world working as a heritage professional for various projects.

Originally, I trained in art history which is why I worked as an arts and Taonga Māori curator. Before coming to the West Coast, I was based in Wellington, dipping my toes in central government for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (otherwise known as New Zealand’s mothership for all things cultural, arts and heritage related),” she said.

Kararaina was raised predominately with her mother’s whānau in a Māori centric home.

“Depending on the season, we were primarily located between Waitahanui (grandfather’s papakāinga located in the Taupō District) and Porokaeaea (grandmother’s papakāinga located in the Manawatū-Horowhenua region).

“Often, we would stay or visit my grandparents’ other papakāinga in Te Hāroto, Tāngoio and various other papakāinga in the wider Bay of Plenty.

“My family highlighted the importance of ahikā, the act of keeping a papakāinga lived in by “stoking the fires”, so to speak.”

“As a teenager, I went to spend longer periods of time with my father’s whānau in Te Tau Ihu, known as the Malbourough and Nelson Districts.

“Many of my whānau live at the top of the South Island and have told many pūrākau (ancient histories) of the West Coast. Working as a heritage professional, I have always been aware of the West Coast’s dynamic social histories.”

Last year she was given the opportunity to lead the Hokitika Museum and its merging projects.

“I never anticipated that the West Coast would have such incredible layers of living social history, many of the communities hold onto their culture and histories,” she said.

“There is a fibre that connects everything and everyone on the West Coast and it isn’t just because of the size of the population. These commonalities are rarely seen around the world, let alone in Aotearoa.

“When you live and appreciate somewhere unique like the West Coast, there is a freedom to be creative and to challenge ingrained schools of thought from the cities. In other words, I find the West Coast a place of opportunities unlike anywhere else.”

Kararaina’s favourite things to do on the West Coast are to explore nature and engage with heritage/cultural experiences.

“I love it that in my weekends I can go check out what is happening at the Westland Industrial Heritage Park, walk in (or on top of, at the Treetop Walkway) beautiful scenic areas, pan for gold at Ross Goldfields Information and Heritage Centre, watch an arthouse film at the Regent Theatre, and then go to the beachfront with an almond milk hot chocolate (from Kitchen Café) in hand while watching the sunset.

“My next favourite thing to do in Hokitika is supporting our local café’s and eateries, I never thought that Melbourne could be rivalled for food. Because of this, my next favourite activity is working out with the Bodyworx team.”

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