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Maori café opens nights as it reaches second birthday

Apr 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Features, Latest News, News, Student Features


IN THE quiet suburb of Waiwhetu, Kotuku Café gets set to celebrate its’ second birthday with open mic nights and live entertainment.

Since the end of last year Kotuku Café has been open until late on a Friday night.

Last week the café stayed open until late Saturday night for the first time with live entertainment from a local artist.

“Her name is Sana Faifai, she will come every second weekend and play live music for the customers,” Darryl Dickinson, Kotuku Café’s duty manager said.

Mr Dickinson has been working at the Café since January last year.

With his duty manager’s licence the café was able to start selling alcohol to customers last October which has gone done a big hit.

“People like to drink anytime of the day, we have been busier ever since we have started selling alcohol, especially at night,” he said.

The idea is to get customers more involved in a what is seen as a community space for local Maori.

This is not just any community café, however – it is the latest development in more than 150 years of Maori community development in the area.

Rangi Hetet’s family run and own the Hetet Art Space that includes the gallery, café and the tours.

The Hamua sub tribe of Te Atiawa, of which they are a part, has been located in Waiwhetu since the 1850’s.

“The gallery and café have been open for 13 years now, the tours for 12,” Rangi’s daughter Lillian Hetet said.

The café has changed name and ownership over the 13 years it has been open.

The first café was called Galleria, which was open for about seven years until it changed ownership and opened up again as the Tiki Lounge.

The Tiki Lounge was open for about five years until a fire on Christmas Eve in 2011.

The café reopened again in August 2012 as Kotuku Rendezvous, or las it is known locally Kotuku Café.

“The café is gradually getting busier and busier as people start realising we have reopened after the fire,” Ms Hetet said.

Artwork is an important part of Maori tradition and the Hetet family and other tribal members ensure the tradition is alive and well.

“Maori art is being made each day,” Lillian said.

“There are classes in Maori carving and weaving, ranging from beginner to advanced skill level in the Hetet Studios.”

The Hetet family also run workshops in cultural protocol and Treaty of Waitangi.

Ms Hetet compares the tours at the Hetet Art Space as the American and French equivalent of the Lonely Planet tours.

“The tours are boutique tours,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful community around here, which is why we offer tours with small groups. We are able to share our knowledge and give visitors a sense of belonging,” Ms Hetet said.

Visitors will be among notable company with names like the Dalai Lama, Princess Diana and Prince Charles all having been previous guests of Te Atiawa.

Current Kotuku Café chef Maia Nohotima, from the Tuhoe iwi, said everything around the area is linked in some way.

“It is all family orientated around here, everyone is related somehow,” she said.

History of Hetet art studios

Rangi Hetet and the late Erenora Puketapu Hetet married in 1960 at the traditional meeting house located on Riverside Drive, where it still stands today.

Rangi and Erenora were the first couple to be married at the meeting house, right, which is called ‘Arohanui ki te Tangata’, meaning ‘Goodwill to all People’.P1010919

They were married for almost 45 years until Erenora’s death at the age of 65 in July 2006.

Together Rangi and Erenora created, demonstrated, exhibited and taught the art forms that they had learned as young people from tribal tutors.

They have taught their craft in many places including marae, wananga, Rotorua’s Institute of Maori Arts and Crafts, polytechnics and community-based training establishments.

In the early 1980’s the Hetets jointly established the first marae-based training programmes in Maori carving and weaving for long term unemployed Maori.

It is the carving of several tribal waka (canoe) and the decorating of wharenui (meeting houses) that brought them the greatest personal satisfaction due to the communities they met while doing so, Rangi has said.

Artwork and carvings done by Rangi and Erenora, their children Veranoa, Len, grandson Te Rangi, son-in-law Sam Hauwaho and other members of the Hetet whanau including Rangi’s grandmother, the late Rangimarie Hetet and aunt, the late Diggeress Te Kanawa, can be found throughout the world in private collections and public exhibits.

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