Professor Kereti Rautangata - Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Professor Kereti Rautangata (Whakairo Department, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa ) - a Excellence in Innovation winner 2005
Whakairo Department, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
Professor Rautangata has been instrumental in creating and developing new courses and learning paradigms over the past 10 years. His main role has been as the Director of Whakairo (carving), but he has also created a Spiritual Warrior school, which includes learning traditional Māori martial arts. He has designed marae and wharenui (meeting houses), as well as traditional waka; and he has also helped develop the first Bachelors degree in Whakairo. His greatest innovation has been to take traditional Māori spiritual ideals and incorporate them into his teaching, enabling students to develop not just economically relevant skills, but also spiritual growth. Through his programmes, Kereti has enabled many students to express themselves in Māori art forms. His vision is to develop Masters and Doctorate programmes in his specialist areas. Kereti's programmes are unique not only in New Zealand, but around the world and he is regarded as a true pioneer in his field.
Background and specialty
From early adolescence, through to my adult years, I have had a number of profound inner mystical (transcendental) experiences, which have had a marked impact on my perceptions and awareness, ... ‘de-conditioning' much of my secular learning. Hence my holistic approach to education and teaching.
For me, everything must be interlinked with the ‘Cosmic Plan', the all-inclusive Primordial Blueprint that human beings, irrespective of colour, creed or country, should ultimately be aspiring to. The inner certitude of this blueprint is directly related to one's inner experiences and timeless ‘glimpses' of a higher consciousness.
It is from these indelibly imprinted ‘flashes of insight' that one realises the importance of re-connecting to a holistic education; and re-establishing our (original) ability to function as multidimensional beings, in a multi-dimensional universe, to fulfill our real potential in this world of duality.
Hence for me, the art of teaching is coined in the phrase:
... ‘Tahuna te Ahi-para papa-rākau-a-Tū, Oi' he ngākau-toa, Oi' he Manawa toa ..." ... "Fan the potential spark, lying dormant in the psyche of a tauira (student & teacher), into a flamboyant shield of glory ..."
The subject matter, in whatever discipline, then becomes a means and expression by which we attempt to manifest the unmanifest, give form to the formless, or finite the infinite. Through conscious techniques and practice you can develop, both in yourself, and your tauira, a transparent vision in all things, where you are able to perceive both its visible and invisible aspects simultaneously (when operating from ‘higher' consciousness).
It is the degree of maturity of one's own inner soul which is a primary factor that affects one's ability and rapidity to learn, absorb, retain, attain, and use this esoteric knowledge, which inevitably leads to questions of who and what we really are, and how we can optimise our potential in the world. This simply, is my role with my tauira (students) - to advocate, encourage and inspire by example, and point out ways that tauira can reach their own potential. Remember, this is art and this is my particular way of teaching it. It works for me, and many of my tauira. The ultimate art of course, is the ‘art of life' itself.
The basis of some of my life's learning and teaching comes from these philosophies:
"...to give without limit... is to receive endlessly ..."
"...the best teaching method is really by being a dynamic living example..."
How can anyone inspire anyone else, unless they themselves are truly inspired!
"...education should ultimately be perpetual inspiration..." and that can only really happen when you tune into the eternal moment, where past, present and future simultaneously co-exist, unbroken.
When we "...touch ultimate emptiness, hold steady, hold fast...," true inspiration flows!
My own indigenous legacy provides me with perspective, purpose, and another continual source of inspiration:
Ko au anō rā ia, te matarere-toi-uru- Kōpere
(I am merely the point of the arrow... the shaft and feathers are my teachers and teachings)
Tīhakea te konae ... hikareia hikareia...
(Attached, but un-attached to the target of my consciousness)
Ko au anō rā ia te Toi- Matarere, ki te wheiao, ki te Ao Mārama
(...I am the designer of my own destiny, given the dynamic accumulation of knowledge and spiritual awareness)
Hararā ia ko taianga rere rā ia...
(What, but the encounters with (mentoring) light-connectors, could have assured me of a more direct course?)
Waiho ahau kia oho ake i taku moe... he tātai tapu, he whakaheke Atua
(Let me awaken to the full knowledge of my divine and wondrous heritage).
... All of which I feel, are the least of our responsibilities as ‘educators' to advocate.
I passionately believe that when great love and great skill combine you can expect a masterpiece, i.e. when the head and heart combine, real inspiration and production can happen in the tauira. The skills we can indeed teach, ...the love, we can best exemplify.
In my view the true artist is a cosmic explorer. And the meagre task of the carver is to humanise that which is divine, and consequently render divine that which is human, as is implicit in the word ‘Whakairo' (Rākau) itself... ‘To make manifest, gnosis, divine knowledge and profound understanding' (in wood).
The highest function of all great art is as a bridge to the great beyond.
Matter and spirit are interlocked. Neither matter nor spirit means anything in itself.
It is important only that they meet each other in human form, and all dualities are unified. This is what we endeavour to express in our work.
For me Whakairo (carving), is the best ‘excuse' for that to happen.
‘Best practice' for me is based on the quality of the processes and the acquisition of the knowledge and excellent practice by the tauira themselves, which will inevitably produce a quality product. Any system that is successful in connecting, igniting and expanding perpetually, the perception of the individual, makes for best practice!
I believe that it is important to affirm and reaffirm the inner beauty of the tauira's own cultural identity or legacy first, before launching them into the realisation of their own unique and universal origins, and inter-connectedness with all things, and people.
It is ironic that by teaching each tauira what an incredibly fantastic legacy they have behind them, and how to re-tune into that holistic consciousness, such things as ‘academic analysis' and ‘critical thinking', though important, seem to pale in significance to the experience of a transcendental reality within oneself - beyond words, beyond mind, beyond thought and beyond ego! To do this, quality time is spent on painting both the macrocosm and microcosm pictures, which I believe, once fully understood by the tauira, automatically boosts their vision, self-esteem and confidence a thousandfold! Consequently their personal growth and the quality of their outputs are also increased. They take dynamic ownership of their work with conviction and inner certitude.
The wonder of nature
I use the elements in nature to teach. On numerous occasions I have set my tauira the task of catching ‘glimpses' of ‘super nature', abiding in the full spectrum of nature, simply by way of silence, observation and contemplation. I ask them then to use their interpretations and apply them in their designs.
On one occasion in order to get the tauira to understand the spiritual concepts of a particular project I wanted them to carve, I gave them this brief:
" ... It is form... it is form-lessness,... it is neither ... it is both... so, go for it and carve ‘IT'..."
Of course, these words met with blank faces. So, I sent all my tauira home and told them to bring their swimming gear the following day.
The next day we visited a local waterfall in the countryside. I threw an inflated tractor tyre tube into the pool. We clung to the tube as we positioned ourselves directly in and under the spectacular cascading waterfall. I told them to remember the sheer exhilaration and ecstasy of cold pounding water on their heads.
The next day, I ‘re-kindled' all their physical sensations of the waterfall with a visual meditation technique.
The ‘magic' happened, when the visual sensations of pounding water was mentally ‘switched' into blazing light. With total comprehension and pristine clarity from their inner experiences, a six metre tall by one metre wide carving took a phenomenal three days to ‘block-out' (and a further three weeks to finish all the intricate carved surface patterning).
An indigenous point of view
I place great value on basing my teaching on our indigenous point of view as a Tohunga Whakairo, utilising practical, visual and sonic examples and techniques for teaching Māori values (as well as universal). For example, the Tura-moe practice of meditative learning, where the body is completely relaxed, but the mind is trained to be ever awake and alert, for learning such things as Whakapapa, Tātai kōrero, Waiata, Karakia, Aoteatea-Whakairo and so forth.
In the Whare Tūtaua (Māori Martial Arts) school, I also utilise the techniques of Taumata Angiangi (Biorhythms) of each individual participant, as a guide to know when and what to best teach them, at that point in time.
A vision for future educational systems
- As a fundamental basis, to the advancement of our planet, education of the future must be based on unity and synthesis, both interdisciplinary and within the psyche of the individual student, starting at an early age, so as to balance the competitive, exploitive, mechanistic, linear and horizontal thinking patterns, and the threedimensional world-view currently predominating education systems today.
- Education really needs to become the ‘art of inner-exploration' and the ‘science of the Self‘- psychologically and spiritually orientated, whereby the tauira (students and teachers) can re-discover their own true source of internal happiness, joy, stability, spiritual stature, and their roles in society.
- The future challenge now for science (with all its technology) is to re-discover and explore the parallel multi-dimensional universes and establish the validity of the timeless experiences of the mystics and those advanced adepts with cosmic consciousness, for the true fulfilment of holistic education in the future ... for the eventual illumination of our whole planet.
In terms of my immediate vocation at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, I (with others) plan to:
- develop the Masters and Doctorate degrees in Whakairo; and
- develop ‘He Tua Toatanga' - The Spiritual Warrior School - for sincere aspirants of this particular dynamic path.
Plans for the ‘Excellence in Innovation' award
I plan to research and write a full treatise on ‘The Spiritual Symbolism of Whakairo' set in a particular Māori marae context, which will describe the truth principles involved in attaining esoteric knowledge, by way of an in-depth study of Māori and universal cosmic prototypes and concepts, to help advance our arts, Whakairo in particular, in the near future ...
A priority is also to have the artworks professionally photographed.
Peer and Student Comments
He is excited by the whole prospect and process of life-long learning towards enlightenment... Kereti expects and gains commitment to excellence. He lifts people to achieve those standards.
The cloak of Vision and expertise he wears so humbly, yet so readily shares, is the ‘gracenote' to the Song of Creativity... he will bring the Stamp of Excellence to the workplace.
Kereti has a great heart ... he is a born natural leader of his people ... he is a master artist of a rare kind.
Your work, writings and compositions have and continue to play a major part in our lives and in particular, in assisting us with developing ideas, philosophies, goals and objectives for ourselves and our children...
I have to give you my gratitude for the words and the heartfelt support and confidence for, and in, me. Your urgings and quiet prompting does not fall on deaf ears or an idle mind. Thank you for everything Kereti, words don't adequately express my regard for you and the light you hold up to help show me a truth, a destiny.