10 Dec 2015
When Kris Jones receives his Eke Panuku supreme award that recognises Māori and Pasifika achievement at CPIT this week, he'll be wearing the cloak his mother made for him.
It's a symbol of their inter-twined journey; Jones's reconnection with his Māori heritage, and his Pakeha mum Tracey-Anne Cook's support of her son's cultural studies by learning traditional Māori weaving.
Jones, a CPIT Bachelor of Māori language and Indigenous Studies student, will be receiving not only the prestigious Monte Ohia award but is also the institute's overall supreme Māori student achiever. Nominated by the CPIT's Humanities Department, Jones demonstrated both community involvement within Christchurch and sound academic progress in the first year of his bachelor course.
CPIT 2015 Eke Panuku winner Bachelor of Māori language and Indigenous Studies first year student Kris Jones with his mother Tracey-Anne Cook
Born in Napier and raised in Christchurch by his mother, his Māori heritage comes from his father's side of the family.
"I was brought up without any involvement in Māori culture at all. I went to Cashmere High School, and I was going through a bad phase, when my auntie sent me to Kapa Haka practice. The group was doing a performance at Christmas in the Park. It gave me a focus and some momentum."
Now 20, Kapa Haka provided a pathway for a trip to Greece last year with combined group Te Ahikaaroa - Te Ahikōmau a Hamo te Raki and as the opening act for the Cricket World Cup in Christchurch. He was also part of the Christchurch contingent that competed in Te Matatini, a competition celebrating the cultural dance of Māori people. Jones loves the intensity of the Haka artform.
"It's a full commitment. You put so much into it. After a 20 minute performance you are more wrung out than you would be after a sports game. That's what I love about it, and being around like minded people who are involved in it."
It's also led to teaching opportunities with community initiative Tū Toka Tū Ariki Wānanga Taiaha where he works with young children and troubled youth at camps and workshops held throughout the year.
Kapa Haka also sparked his interest in furthering his Te Reo studies that began at high school, which led him to CPIT's Māori culture and language nest, Te Puna Wānaka.
One of his highlights this year was participating in the fully Te Reo play He Kura e Huna Ana, written and directed by one of the rising stars in New Zealand Māori theatre, CPIT Māori Language and Indigenous Studies programme leader Hohepa Waitoa.
"He's the man. Hohepa has a wealth of knowledge and I want to steal some of it," he joked.
Jones played the taniwha Whatipu, the god of sandstone, in a production that featured his enemy and rival, Poutini, the pounamu or greenstone guardian. Waitoa used body paint on Jones to provide the right colour, shading and texture for sandstone.
Taniwhas in action: Nearest camera Kris Jones as Whatipu and Tyson Tangaroa as Poutini in the recent fully Te Reo play, He Kura e Huna Ana at The Court Theatre. His role in the production helped earn him an Eke Panuku supreme award this year.
"I was his canvas," Jones laughed.
Waitoa's Te Reo skill within the play's dialogue and narrative also furthered his pupil's language and cultural studies this year.
"Because I was hearing the lines over and over, and learning more advanced sentence structure, I was able to take that back with me to the classroom."
Jones also paid tribute to his aunties' Miriama Setterington and Hinerau Jones, and in particular his mother's support for his cultural learning.
"Mum picked up on my enthusiasm when I was Year 13 at school and started learning Te Reo, so we practiced at home. We learned from each other."
During this time, his mum also learned to weave and to work with traditional materials such as harakeke, the result being the cloak he will wear at the Eke Panuku awards (tonight, Thursday December 10).
"All of his activities, first with Kapa Haka, then with Taiaha Wānanga along with his studies at CPIT have made a huge change in him. He didn't engage at school, but in the space of just a few years he's made a huge turn around," she said.
At this stage, Jones is interested in becoming a teacher or a coach. His advice to anyone is:
"Find what you enjoy and use that as a motivation for learning and enjoyment because other doors will open."
He will be presented with his awards by CPIT's Kaiarahi and Student Services Director Hana O'Regan.