Ngā Hekenga migration stories bring Whanganui community together

By Leah Te Whata
  • North Island: West Coast

A Whanganui-based community waka project has received an overwhelming response with more than eight hundred families joining forces to foster language development through their very own migration stories.

It's a community exhibition so big that one museum just wasn't enough.

Gail Imhoff has been a driver of the project.  She says, "We've been really overwhelmed with the response that we've been getting from whānau, it's kind of taken on a mauri of its own.  It's about encouraging whānau to talk and explore who they are."

Project leader Jen McDonald says, "The kōrero that's come through has just been stunning, it's been humbling.  It's had me in tears and the connections that are forming in the community is just absolutely brilliant."

Ngā Hekenga has seen more than eight hundred families create vessels to represent their families journeys.  It's based on connecting communities and education, with a focus on whānau.

Imhoff says, "I never ever went on a marae until I was in my thirties and people used to say prior to that 'oh, that's a Māori thing' but I'd say, 'but that's how I feel' and it's that connectedness and that's what we're finding from here- that the people are making connections in all sorts of ways."

But it doesn't stop here.  The Festival of Cultures has asked to display some of the waka and they're considering making Ngā Hekenga an annual event.

McDonald says, "I really believe that these stories are only just starting to be told.  We've had lots of interest from other organisations saying 'what do we do with this next?'"

The project is part of the Festival of Learning which will run until the end of the week.