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Creating a school taonga, one stitch at a time

Flagstaff Team

Granting prestige… Euphymya Lavelle is working on a Westlake Boys High School korowai, incorporating patterns that represent knowledge and success

Euphymya Lavelle takes a needle and thread wherever she goes. Most mornings she sits in a café to enjoy a cup of coffee while she sews a korowai, a  traditional Māori cloak.

Lavelle is working on a special korowai to gift to Westlake Boys High School. 

Featuring the school colours, it will be used to recognise the top Māori students during achievement awards. 

In early Māori times, a korowai was woven from traditional materials such as flax and feathers, and was worn as a mantle of prestige and honour.

Māori families sometimes make their own korowai to give their children during prize-giving ceremonies and graduations but Lavelle believes Westlake Boys High School should have its own, so the top Māori students can have their names embroidered onto the cloak.

“It’s about whakamana or granting prestige and importance for Māori students and embracing our culture. 

“This korowai will be a taonga, or treasure, for the school,” she said.

“At the school there is no honours 

board for the top Māori student, but when Māori students receive this cloak during a ceremony, they can feel proud too,” Lavelle said. 

Lavelle’s son Sam is in year 11 at Westlake, and his older brother James is a former student. 

She is proud to come from the Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahu iwi, and always 

reminds her children to embrace their Māori language and culture.

Lavelle remembers growing up in Northcote without a strong connection to important Māori values. 

It wasn’t until she reached university many years ago that she saw an exhibition of Māori artefacts, which inspired her to create her own traditional work.

This article originally appeared in the 20 March 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.