High university honour for Diggeress

GENERATION GAME: Diggeress Te Kanawa with her grandson Aubrey at the graduation ceremony at Waikato University's Te Kohinga Marama marae yesterday.
MARK TAYLOR/Waikato Times
GENERATION GAME: Diggeress Te Kanawa with her grandson Aubrey at the graduation ceremony at Waikato University's Te Kohinga Marama marae yesterday.

She's been honoured numerous times for her life's work, but Te Kuiti weaver Diggeress Te Kanawa did not expect being one of the guests of honour at Waikato University's first graduation ceremony for 2007 yesterday.

The 86-year-old found herself at the front of the wharenui at the Te Kohinga Marama (the university marae), where an honorary doctorate was conferred on her by former prime minister and Waikato University Chancellor Jim Bolger.

"When I came today, I had no idea this would happen I thought I'd be one of the crowd," said Mrs Te Kanawa.

Whanau members had managed to keep the honorary doctorate quiet.

"I never thought this would happen to me. I thought I was coming here to witness diplomas being awarded to someone else."

Mrs Te Kanawa, who is of Ngati Maniapoto and Ngati Kinohaku descent, is based in Oparure in Te Kuiti.

She was hugely surprised by the doctorate, describing it as "like reaching the summit".

"I'm pretty humbled. If I knew I'd have been going through this, I'd have been really nervous."

Mrs Te Kanawa spoke briefly in te Reo to the assembled crowd, which included members of her whanau.

Among them was her grandson Aubrey, who also graduated yesterday, and several people to whom she had passed on her craft.

"I was thinking they didn't have to bother to come up," Mrs Te Kanawa said.

Mrs Te Kanawa was taught weaving by her mother, Dame Rangimarie Hetet, and has a long list of awards and credentials resulting from her mastering of the craft. She co-founded Aotearoa Maonanui-a-Kiwa Weavers Association in 1983, and in 1992 she co-authored the book Weaving a Kakahu.

In 2001 she was given the Sir Kingi Ihaka Award for her contribution to Maori art, and her work was part of several exhibitions.

Her grandson Aubrey, who graduated in management studies, joked that it was "a bit lucky" for him to be receiving his bachelor degree the same day his grandmother was given her doctorate. He wore a korowai (cloak) his grandmother had made.

"She wanted a nice quiet affair, and to get it out of the way," he said.

"She got here and there was a bit of a fuss!"

"It has been a wonderful day," said Mrs Te Kanawa.

Waikato